MAY MANN JENNINGS,
FLORIDA'S GENTEEL ACTIVIST
LINDA DARLENE MOORE VANCE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Copyright 19 8
Linda Darlene Moore Vance
This dissertation is dedicated to
The author is indebted to many people for the comple-
tion of this work. First, to my children, who kept the
pressure on by asking everyday for six years when "Momma"
would be through with school and finished with her book;
second, to the staff of the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida
History at the University of Florida — Elizabeth Alexander,
Ellen Hodges, and Steve Kerber — who were always helpful;
third, to Dorothy Jennings Sandridge, who gave generously
of her time and shared the Jennings family's papers, memen-
toes, and photographs; fourth, to my parents who financed
the undertaking when funds ran low; and finally to Dr.
Samuel Proctor, friend, mentor, and chairman of my doctoral
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I "CRYSTAL GROVE" AND PAPA 1
Notes to Chapter 1 17
II "BEYOND THE ALPS LIES ITALY" 20
Notes to Chapter II 41
III SHERMAN 44
Notes to Chapter III 71
IV THE GOVERNOR ' S LADY 7 5
Notes to Chapter IV Ill
V JACKSONVILLE, THE FEDERATION AND OTHER
Notes to Chapter V 142
VI "... AN ENTHUSIASTIC CLUBWOMAN" 145
Notes to Chapter VI 183
VII MADAM PRESIDENT AND THE OLD-GIRL NETWORK 136
Notes to Chapter VII 237
VIII A DEDICATED LIFE 240
Notes to Chapter VIII 267
IX DOCTOR MAY 271
Notes to Chapter IX 297
X " LOVER OF BEAUTY" 3
Notes to Chapter X 320
APPENDIX I "BEYOND THE ALPS LIES ITALY" 322
APPENDIX II LIST OF PRESIDENTS OF FFWC , 1895-1920.. 325
APPENDIX III LIST OF CLUBS IN FFWC 326
APPENDIX IV ANNUAL CONVENTIONS OF FFWC, 1896-1919.. 331
APPENDIX V CAMPAIGN SONG FOR MAY MANN JENNINGS.... 333
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 345
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to
the Graduate Council of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
MAY MANN JENNINGS,
FLORIDA'S GENTEEL ACTIVIST
Linda Darlene Moore Vance
Chairman: Samuel Proctor
Major Department: History
May Mann Jennings, 1872-1963, was one of Florida's
most distinguished twentieth-century activists. She stands
alone as the state's most important and successful female
citizen. Unlike other civic-minded women who were married
to prominent Florida men, May Jennings' many public contri-
butions were not dependent upon or overshadowed by those of
her husband, William Sherman Jennings, the state's seventeenth
For over sixty years she provided ideas and leader-
ship to the Florida women's movement and to other political
and civic causes. She was unexcelled as a strategist and
lobbyist and served on scores of state boards and commissions.
She worked for progress in the areas of education, conserva-
tion, beautif ication, political reform, and female rights.
She also played an active role in making the Florida
Federation of Women's Clubs politically viable, in estab-
lishing the first state park, the first State Board of
Forestry, and in the creation of Everglades National Park.
She was directly responsible for the establishment of
various Jacksonville civic organizations and in the plan-
ning and implementation of many statewide beautif ication
projects. Late in her career she was honored by the
Florida Legislature, Stetson University, the State Chamber
of Commerce, and the University of Florida.
This assessment of May Jennings' life and contribu-
tions to Florida has been based upon two things. First,
upon her concrete accomplishments, as listed above, and
second, upon the fact that she achieved many successes at
a time when women were either politically disfranchised or
were viewed with skepticism and ridiculed by their male
counterparts. Against great odds she overcame society's
roadblocks and unselfishly furthered the public good while
at the same time helping to bring Florida women into the
"CRYSTAL GROVE" AND PAPA
A young family from the north, Austin Mann, his wife,
Rachel, and their baby daughter, May, wintered in Ocala in
1873. Impressed with the beauty of the state, with the busi-
ness opportunities that seemed available, and with the bene-
ficial effects the warm climate had upon his wife's health,
Austin decided to make Florida the family's permanent home.
By autumn of the following year he had purchased an estab-
lished orange grove at Crystal River in Hernando County and
had moved his family into the small cottage on the premises.
They called the place "Crystal Grove," and it became the
childhood home of their daughter who would grow up to become
one of Florida's most notable women.
Many people, places, and events shaped May Mann's
character and personality. First and foremost was her
father who was very much like May in his political ambition
and his ability to work with people. May's parents shared
a loving relationship. Little is known about Rachel Mann,
but more is available on Austin, who became a successful
businessman and prominent Florida politician. He was a
dynamic and carefree individual. Energetic and imaginative,
with an inventive mind, his entrepreneurial talents develop-
ed early. He was small of stature, feisty and restless by
nature, a spellbinding talker, and a natty dresser who had
an eye for the ladies. He was a born promoter, what some
might call a "wheeler dealer." Mann was also a visionary
who was often as impractical as he was ahead of his time.
A free-thinking nonconformist, he was usually ready to try
out new ideas and spent much of his life in economic and
political pursuits which brought him both notoriety and
By nearly every yardstick, he was already a success,
when at the age of twenty-six, he moved his family to Florida.
Born in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1847, he attended local
schools and for three years attended Capitol University at
Columbus. He then studied law with his cousin, G.L.
Converse, a future congressman, and was admitted to the Ohio
bar in 1869. Mann was ambitious and interested in things
other than the law, and moved east where he believed there
were more business opportunities. While at Mauch Chunk,
Pennsylvania, he met and married Rachel Elizabeth Kline, the
second of five children of Frederick C. Kline and Z4arietta
Staples Kline, longtime residents of the area. Rachel had
thick, dark hair, attractive features, and was much admired
for her piano playing and her clear soprano voice. She was
a Methodist and sang in the local church's choir. Unfortu-
nately, she suffered from poor health and was to die while
still in her twenties. She and Austin were married on
April 24, 1871. On April 25, 1872, one year and a day
after the marriage, May Elizabeth Austin Mann was born in
Centerville, Bayonne Province, New Jersey, where the family
was then residing. Austin by that time had developed a
new type of silver heel plate which proved valuable in the
manufacture of shoes and which brought him a large, steady
After Austin made the decision to locate his family
in Florida, he returned north, settled his business affairs,
and with $90,000 received from selling the heel plate
patent, he purchased "Crystal Grove." Posterity has not
recorded what Rachel, a refined young lady from the urban
Northeast, thought of Crystal River and its environs. She
was probably appalled by the area's primitiveness and iso-
lation and disappointed with the house at the grove. Years
later, in an interview, May remembered that the dwelling
was a small, crudely-built cottage sitting "on pine pillars
about eight to ten feet from the ground." That first
encounter with the living conditions at "Crystal Grove" must
have been disheartening since the family had been accus-
tomed to more elegant accommodations. In those days houses
in that part of Florida had only one major purpose, to pro-
vide a high, dry place to eat and sleep. Austin soon built
a more appropriate and spacious home for his family.
In the 1870s Crystal River was scarcely more than a
hamlet with a population of less than 100 people. Cut off
from both major highway and railroad routes there was only
one practical way in or out of the place. One had to travel
aboard one of the steamers which stopped periodically to
discharge freight and to take on firewood as it plied be-
tween Cedar Key and Tampa Bay. Contemporary descriptions
of the area were not very flattering. Daniel G. Brinton,
who wrote a guidebook in 1869, described the Hernando County
coastal lowland as "rich" even though it was "the most
unhealthy part of the penisula." J.M. Hawks, the author
of another tourguide published in 1871 for "those who migrate
with the swallows and robins," described Crystal River as a
"flourishing village" whose inhabitants made their living
by farming, fishing, tending citrus groves, and working in
the cedar sawmills. The people were described as "peace-
able and quiet, frugal and hospitable" but not much interest-
ed in politics or in the outside world. There were no
public schools, few churches, and the nearest newspapers
were published at Ocala and Tampa, both a day's journey
Why Austin Mann chose this remote spot to locate is
not known. While Florida's tropical beauty and the promise
of better health for his wife contributed to his decision,
it is also obvious that he was afflicted with what one
historian has called "orange fever," which was sweeping
Florida in the 1870s. Intrigued by tales of quick riches,
thousands of wealthy Northerners began moving south, invest-
ing large sums of money in citrus acreage. How simple it
all sounded; money figuratively growing on trees available
just for the picking. One alluring advertisement induced
many a Yankee and his money to come to Florida. It stated:
"Clear off one acre of ground. Plant but one hundred
orange trees twenty-one feet apart and in three years one
has a capital of $10,000 bringing an interest of 10%. The
land will cost but little. Each tree will produce 1,000
oranges each year bringing 1C a piece." This promise is
more readily appreciated when one remembers that one dollar
in those days was equivalent to approximately ten today.
Would-be grove owners flooded the state but most by-passed
the remote Gulf coast region.
Hernando County was a frontier area in the 1870s.
Although former United States Senator David Levy Yulee had
his large and prosperous plantation there until the 1860s,
few of the area's original settlers remained after the
Civil War. Hampton Dunn, in his history of the county, says
"it was still a frontier, the people hacking out a living
under primitive conditions." According to one oldtimer,
"in the early days bear and deer were as common as cattle
now." Turkey, otter, and other wildlife were also abun-
dant. The people lived off the land, which was fertile and
productive. It was also cheap since most of it was nearly
inaccessible. Although less isolated than far South Florida
the area was still remote enough for its growth to be hin-
dered. Most supplies and mail arrived by water although
stagecoaches ran from Ocala and Brooksville weekly when the
weather was good. Such land facilities were not very
dependable. One of those coaches was described by a visi-
tor to the area as "a little rattletrap sort of affair."
Austin Mann, an active and ambitious man, acquired a
reputation in his community as an adroit businessman. His
grove proved lucrative and provided capital for other
investments. He purchased additional lands for speculative
purposes and undertook various innovative agricultural ven-
tures. Florida's west coast needed developers like him;
one writer noted that there was not "a single improved
farming implement in Hernando County. " At one time Mann
tried raising sheep but the venture failed, even though he
imported high quality Marino stock from Spain. Perhaps
his neighbors had something to do with his failure, for the
cattlemen in the county resented the intrusion of the new
livestock, and they turned their dogs loose on his flocks.
Not to be outdone, he acquired the largest herd of cattle
in the area, some 200 head. In addition to his agricultural
and business interests he practiced law. He was very much
interested in local politics, and by 1881 he had served two
terms as a county commissioner, had attended various dis-
trict and state political conventions, and had been elected
to the 1880 Hancock-English presidential electoral ticket.
Mann was able to pursue successful political and
business careers simultaneously. His ingenuity and energies
were well-suited to the post-Civil War era in which he lived.
He held to the belief that progress and the public good were
irrevocably linked to the many grand schemes in agriculture,
timber, land, and railroad development which promoters and
investors were relentlessly pursuing everywhere. As a con-
sequence he involved himself in a number of activities
which he hoped would attract settlers to Florida and make
money for himself at the same time. He became an enthusias-
tic booster of railroad, canal, and road development within
his adopted state.
While Mann had the ideas and the abilities needed
to become a nineteenth-century tycoon, he did not have the
ruthlessness necessary. He was a promoter, but he was
also a maverick, for unlike many entrepreneurs of that
period he was too trustful of those he met, and he often
misjudged character. He also possessed a strong sympathy
for poor people and devoted time and energy to provide them
more economic opportunities and a measure of social and
legal justice. Mann's forbears were Midwestern Protestants.
Born and raised on a farm, he always thought of himself
first as a farmer and then as a businessman. Thus, while
his abilities and personality enabled him to adjust to a
time when capitalists were profiting handsomely from the
development of America's frontiers, he himself was never to
pull off the coveted "Big Deal" and make the millions he
If he never became a millionaire, he was by most
standards financially successful. Unfortunately, he never
managed his money very well; he was extravagant, spending
freely on travel, fine clothes, cigars, horses, and expen-
sive hotels and restaurants. He also enjoyed hob-nobbing
with the rich and famous at their elegant watering holes
along the East Coast. His wife and children led as com-
fortable and genteel a life as frontier Florida would
permit. His business and political activities forced him
to spend much time away from his home. Though his finances
were to fluctuate his family never felt any insecurity, and
as far as May ever knew there was always enough money avail-
able to live well. She grew up feeling both emotionally
and financially secure. Like her father, she v/as also to
champion the less fortunate, work for social and political
progress, and promote Florida and its people.
Austin Mann's spendthrift nature sometimes forced
him into debt, but mortgages and personal loans helped carry
him between harvests, elections, and business deals. On
occasion he was on the brink of bankruptcy, but he managed
to recover, relying on little more than his perseverance.
He never lost his optimistic outlook. Even in the bleakest
of times he believed things would work out well. Through
the years during dark times he wrote his family the follow-
ing: "I can't make a deal at all. Seems tomorrow I think I
will see a ray of light. ... It is simply almost impossi-
ble to get men willing to part with cash and strange to say
I have been parting with mine very rapidly but I know how
to do once I am busted," and, "It takes pluck to make a
deal at these times. If I fall down I might as well keep
going. ... I am a fair sample of a gambler or like
Napoleon believe in my Lucky Star. Yet even those who have a
Lucky Star fail to see it in cloudy weather. Yet I am in
good spirits." To his daughter he wrote, "Why worry and
make of life so anxious a matter? What you can't help
don't worry about. Dear, you take life too seriously. It
is a large joke." May was to inherit her father's posi-
tiveness but not his nonchalant fatalism. She had her feet
planted more firmly on the ground.
Austin Mann had a wide-ranging career. At one time
or another after arriving in Florida he practiced law, owned
and managed several sizable citrus groves and out-of-state
peach farms, and operated a newspaper. He was elected to
public office and was a leader in his political party. He
promoted railroad, canal, and land development schemes,
headed the Florida Orange and Vegetable Auction Company,
managed the Florida Home Market and the Sub-Tropical Expo-
sition, served as president of the Florida State Agriculture
Association, and organized the Florida "Good Roads" move-
ment. This peripatetic lifestyle, together wxth his
active mind, caused one friend to refer to him as a "brainy,
rushing man." He himself admitted: "I have to be moving.
I hear the rumbling of the [railroad] car and must move on
even if it overtakes me." Throughout his life he remain-
ed busy traveling, politicking, and organizing business
deals. He was reluctant to stop and rest although late in
life he wrote his family: "I sometimes get tired of rambling
always waiting for a deal to close. ... I am going to
get into something else. I am tired of skimming wind."
May inherited her father's restlessness and tireless vital-
ity, but she was able to channel her energies into more
practical, worthwhile public service.
Throughout his career, Mann was undaunted by incon-
sistencies; he championed liberal political beliefs while
still insisting upon a laissez-faire capitalistic economic
philosophy. Apparently he was not aware of these incompat-
ibilities. Accused sometimes of being a secret Republican,
he was identified from time to time over the years as a
Democrat, Independent, Allianceman, and Populist. His
inconsistencies, plus the various situations and alliances
he seemed always to be enmeshed in, led his political
opponents to accuse him of erratic and fickle behavior.
Enemies accused him at one time or another of being "an
aristocrat," "a first-class demagogue," "a land shark" and
a "Political Nondescript." Naturally his admirers and
friends viewed him much differently. If his unconventional
hybrid politics defy classification, it is obvious that he
was a shrewd politician who possessed superior abilities and
who seemed to thrive on the rough and tumble of Florida
politics. Regardless of the assessment of Mann by friend
or foe he left his mark on Florida and on its business and
During the years that Mann was consolidating his
business interests and establishing a political career his
family continued to increase. Three years after May's birth,
a boy, Roy Frederick, was born. In 1876 a second daughter,
Nina Lucy, joined the family, and in 1879, Grace Irene was
born. 27 A fifth child, Carl, died shortly after birth.
"Crystal Grove" was a lively place to live in the
1870s; it was not only the family's homestead, but also
Mann's political headquarters. During these years May's
lifelong fascination with politics began. From early child-
hood she watched her father's political friends come and go.
The lights often burned late at the Mann home while her
papa and his associates held meetings to talk over political
strategy. One can perhaps imagine the little girl standing
in the shadows listening to the discussions as the grownups
sat around the dinner table and talked politics. May was
the only one of the Mann children to develop any inclination
Her father was the most important personal influence
on her during her childhood years. Similar to him in per-
sonality and habits, she followed in his footsteps by later
pursuing her own public career. From her mother she inherit-
ed artistic talents, but from her father she inherited a
zest for life, and an optimistic outlook that was never to
leave her. She also inherited his love of politics. From
the beginning Mann treated his eldest daughter as his
favorite. He never excluded her from adult activities or
discussions, and he never assumed that there were some
things she could not do just because she was a girl. This
liberating notion was to have a key place in her own philos-
ophy of life. To her politics was just as legitimate an
interest for women as for men. This radical, but to her
natural, belief was to thrust her to the forefront of the
women's movement just at the time when females were begin-
ning to enter Florida's political arena.
The Crystal River area began to expand with the
arrival of new settlers. The Manns were recognized as one
of the most prosperous and prominent families in the county.
If life was comparatively simple, it was not dull. Children
were educated either at home or at one of the small private
schools in the town. In addition to the usual household
and farm chores, there were picnics, church socials, polit-
ical rallies, fishing trips, blackberry hunts, holiday
celebrations, orange harvest time, romps in the new cut
hay, and buggy rides down shady, moss draped forest lanes.
May especially enjoyed horseback riding. She liked to
perform stunts and do acrobatics while riding her horse.
She became an expert horsewoman. Years later she hung her
girlhood saddle and riding habit in her Jacksonville home
as a gentle reminder of those earlier, carefree days.
Even "Crystal Grove" itself was to have an influence
upon her. To grow up in rural Florida's tropical wilderness,
in the midst of a citrus grove where the sweet scents and
beauty of nature were as close as the very air itself, was
to leave a deep impression upon her. It produced in her a
lifelong love of the outdoors. Plants, trees, flowers, and
wildlife became for her a special and precious part of life.
Later she planned and developed award-winning gardens and
she owned thousands of acres of Florida land. Because of
her attachment to nature she became a recognized leader in
the movement to conserve and preserve Florida's tropical
wilderness. Of all her public works her commitment to this
cause never wavered. At times it would take precedence
over all her other interests. When grown she remembered
"Crystal Grove" with fondness. She wrote: "My memory lingers
caressingly over the years spent in dear old Hernando . . .
back to my childhood . . . Crystal River is very dear to
After 188 the Mann family was never the same. First
Nina Lucy, four years of age, died during the summer of 1880.
Rachel, pregnant with the family's fifth child and weak
from a chronic cough, never recovered from the death of
her child. The next winter she contracted what the family
believed was a severe cold but in reality was advanced
tuberculosis. Unable to recover her strength she traveled
to Pennsylvania to live with her parents and try to regain
her health as she awaited the birth of her new child. Carl
Mann was born on March 25, 1881, but Rachel never recovered.
Weak and unable to care for her baby properly he too took
sick and died only a few months after his birth. This was
a blow from which Rachel Mann never recovered. Bedridden
and unable to care for herself she lingered less than a
year and died at her parents' home on August 20, 1882.
She was only twenty-eight . The medical cause of her passing
was tuberculosis, but grief no doubt played a major role.
Austin was at her bedside when she died. A gentle woman,
Florida friends remembered her as one who would "mount her
horse with her babe and a basket of necessaries in her arms, and
ride ten miles through the forest to minister to the sick
and poor." She was buried in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The loss of Nina Lucy affected May deeply, but
nothing was to overwhelm her and change her life quite as
much as the death of her mother. Years later when May was
directing the clubwomen of Florida in public health work
she wrote to a colleague, who was proposing an anti-tubercu-
losis campaign, "I do not think there is any more important
work. ... I lost my mother with the disease, when I was
a little girl of nine. ... So you see the matter comes
very close to me." It is not difficult to imagine what
a mother's death can mean to such a young child, but in
May's case it is known that drastic changes took place in
her life. She became the eldest female in the household
and she was forced to assume responsibilities beyond her
years. Her mother's death was a deep personal loss. In
later years she hung an oil painting of her mother in her
bedroom, and one of the first things she did each morning
was to wipe the moisture and dust from that portrait. It
was a symbolic gesture allowing her to express her innermost
Austin Mann was also faced with a serious problem.
How was he to raise three children alone? There were ser-
vants in the house but they could hardly be expected to
provide the close supervision and guidance which the
children needed. He himself had neither the inclination
nor the time to take on that responsibility, for at the
moment he was in the midst of an intense political campaign
for the state senate. Two months after his wife's death
the following item appeared in a Tampa paper: "The Democrats
of Hernando County have succeeded in getting their local
politics into a terrible tangle. It seems the Mann nomi-
nated for the Senate, was not the man they wanted at all,
so another 'Conservative Democrat' has come out Independent-
ly against him." Mann won the election, and the problem
of how to care for his children became more acute than ever.
Crystal River friends helped out temporarily but a
more permanent arrangement was necessary if Mann was to
fulfill his public duties and be sure that his children's
needs were properly met. He persuaded his cousin and her
husband to come from Ohio to live at "Crystal Grove" and to
care for the children while he attended the legislative
session at Tallahassee. The arrangement was only for a
short while because the couple had to return to their own
home after a few months. Mann then took the children to
Jacksonville where they lived with friends, but this too
proved unsatisfactory. Once more he was faced with the
problem of what to do. In October, 18 83, he thought he
had found a solution. Roy was to be cared for by family
friends in Brooksville, and May and Grace were enrolled as
year-round boarders at St. Joseph's Academy, a convent
school in St. Augustine.
Austin Mann continued to cultivate both his grove
and his political career. In 1885 he married again. His
second wife was Susie B. Williams of Nashville, Tennessee.
Once more there was a mother in the household but only for
a brief time. She too died a short time later in child-
birth. Again Austin was left a widower, and now there
was a newborn infant to care for. The family with which
Roy was living agreed to take Austin, Jr. The girls remained
at the academy, and a new chapter in May's life began.
Notes to Chapter I
John Q. Langford, Jr. , "Senator Austin S. Mann"
(unpublished MS., Gainesville, 1950), P.K. Yonge Library
of Florida History, n.p.
Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings. July 27,
1978, Penney Farms, Florida.
Florida Legislative Directory 12th Session 1883 ,
p. 59. Austin Mann was born January 14, 1847.
Elizabeth Bell Hightower to author. July 2, 1978.
Rachel Kline was born on September 11, 1852.
Lucy Worthington Blackman, The Women of Florida
(Jacksonville, 1939), II, p. 92. " ~ ~" "
Langford, Jr., "Senator Austin S. Mann," n.p.
7 Ibid .
Richard J. Stanaback, A History of Hernando County,
1840-1975 (Brooksville, 1976), p. 47.
David G. Brinton, A Guidebook of Florida and the
South for Tourists, Invalids, and Immigrants (Jacksonville,
1869) , p. 107.
J.M. Hawks, The Florida Gazetteer (New Orleans,
1871) , p. 45.
R.A. Divine, "The History of Citrus Culture in
Florida, 1565-1895" (unpublished MS., Gainesville, 1952),
P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, n.p.
Hawks, Florida Gazetteer , p. 45.
Hampton Dunn , Back Home: A History of Citrus County,
Florida (Inverness, 1978), p. 74.
Ibid . , p. 67.
George M. Barbour, Florida for Tourists, Invalids
and Settlers (New York, 1882), p. 53.
Hernando County land ownership certificates for
79.8, 119.7, 40, 41.6, 80.7, and 40.1 acres, 1882. Austin
Shuey Mann Papers (3 Boxes), Box 1. P.K. Yonge Library of
Florida History, Gainesville (hereafter cited as the ASM
Hawks, Florida Gazetteer , p. 46.
Langford, Jr., "Senator Austin S. Mann," n.p.
Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings.
A.S. Mann to May M. Jennings, October 5, 19 03,
December 4, 1903, and December 14, 1903. May Mann Jennings
Papers (19 Boxes) , Box 1 (hereafter cited as MMJ Papers) .
A.S. Mann to William S. Jennings, August 22, 1899. William
S. Jennings Papers (28 Boxes) , Box 3. P.K. Yonge Library
of Florida History, Gainesville (hereafter cited as WSJ
A.S. Mann to May Jennings, August 9, 1906, December
10, 19 03. MMJ Papers, Box 2.
Langford, Jr., "Senator Austin S. Mann," n.p.
S.S. Harvey to A.S. Mann, June 5, 19 02. ASM Papers,
A.S. Mann to May Jennings, December 22, 1903. MMJ
Papers, Box 2.
A.S. Mann to Marietta Staples Kline, December 22,
19 03; and to May Jennings, October 11, 19 04. MMJ Papers,
Landford, Jr., "Senator Austin S. Mann," n.p.
United States Census, 10th, 1880 Florida , Hernando
Interview with Dorothy Jennings Sandridge, June 8,
1978. Orange Park, Florida.
Speech, May Jennings, "What Brooksville and Hernando
County Can Be If Her People Will," 1915. MMJ Papers, Box
16. May Jennings to Mrs. Louis Thompson, May 18, 1917.
MMJ Papers, Box 10.
Mann- Jennings family Bible in possession of Dorothy
Undated and unidentified newspaper clipping in pos-
session of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
May Jennings to Dr. Grace Whitford, September 7,
1917. MMJ Papers, Box 11.
Tampa Sunland Tribune, October 20, 1882.
Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings.
Biographical sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919.
MMJ Papers, Box 16.
Austin Mann, Jr. , was born in Tallahassee, December
"BEYOND THE ALPS LIES ITALY"
May Mann and her sister remained at the St. Augustine
convent for almost seven years, a period that would leave
an indelible mark upon the girls. Although they were only
eleven and five at the time, St. Joseph's Academy provided
May and Grace with the personal attention, discipline, and
education that they needed. They received moral guidance
and a sound education, and they left the school with a
strong sense of duty and an understanding of their responsi-
bility to society.
While the convent provided the girls the love and care
they needed, Roy and Austin, Jr., were not so fortunate.
They were to become alienated and to develop behavior prob-
lems which later brought dismay and grief to the family.
The contrast between Austin Mann's sons and his two daugh-
ters was striking and can only be attributed to the dif-
ference in the quality of their respective up-bringings.
The school at St. Augustine was operated by the Sisters
of St. Joseph, a Catholic order which had been organized at
Le Puy, France, in 1648. The order came to America at the
summons of Bishop Augustine Verot after the Civil War to
minister to the newly-freed Florida slaves. Arriving in
St. Augustine in 1866, they established one of the state's
first schools for Negroes. A school for white boys was
soon added, and in 1877 a school for white girls was estab-
lished. The sisterhood started academies elsewhere in the
state, the most important at Jacksonville and Fernandina.
The St. Augustine school was the original institution and
the site of the Motherhouse of the order in America. From
the time the nuns arrived in Florida they raised money to
support themselves and their schools by teaching, giving
private art, music, and French lessons, and by selling
their famous delicate, handmade lace. By 1883, when May
and Grace enrolled at St. Joseph, its reputation as a highly
respected educational institution was firmly established.
From 1874 until 198 the convent and academy have
occupied the same site in St. Augustine. The O'Reilly
house, one of the city's oldest structures, and still main-
tained by the order, once served as the academy. When May
entered the school, however, there was a new three-story
building which housed the classrooms, chapel, and a dormi-
tory. It was of Mediterranean style architecture, construc-
ted of coquina and brick, overlaid with white plaster, and
it had a red tile roof. It fronted on St. George street
and was only two blocks from the waterfront and historic
market square. The building still stands and is still in
use by the order.
During the 1880s the school was surrounded by spacious
grounds which contained vegetable, fruit and flower gardens,
grape arbors, and a quaint little octagonal-shaped gazebo.
The entire property of several acres was enclosed by a high
rock wall which provided privacy. Great wooden gates marked
the entrances. The place projected a friendly, inviting
appearance because of the lovely tropical vines and flowers
that cascaded over the walls.
From the time the academy first began enrolling white
students most of them came from St. Augustine and the sur-
rounding area. There were some, however, from elsewhere in
Florida. Students of all religious persuasions, including
those who were not Christian, were admitted, but the majority
were Catholics. The Manns were Baptists, and May and Grace
maintained that faith throughout their years at the academy.
St. Joseph's Academy was unique; unlike most institutions
in the South, with perhaps the exception of schools in New
Orleans, it projected an international flavor. The nuns
were French and many of the students came from Spanish,
Minorcan, and Italian backgrounds. This fact perhaps added
to May's natural inquisitive, searching nature. She was al-
ways interested in other places and peoples. She was well-
read and tried to learn as much about other people and far-
away places as possible. She liked to travel and to read
about other countries. Her interest in new ideas and
different cultures was obvious to her friends and associates.
Once, in explanation of her liberal attitude, she wrote, "I
was educated in a convent and I look at life through much
broader glasses than the average person does.
When May entered St. Joseph's the superior was Mother
Marie Lazarus Lhostal and the principal was Sister Margaret
Mary, both pioneer workers in the order. They became May's
mentors and counselors and were to remain her friends long
after she left the school. The steadying influence of the
nuns at the convent left May with an equanimity and equipoise
which she carried the rest of her life.
May looked after Grace while they lived at the school.
Their close relationship enabled them to maintain a sense
of family and prevented them from feeling isolated and for-
gotten. Grace remained under May's guardianship until years
later when she was married and had established a home of
her own. The girls lived in a large dormitory room on the
top floor of the school building. "From the moment young
girls arrived at the convent they were struck by the kind-
ness of the sisters, women who wore long black dresses and
veils, and white guimpes (collars) starched of linen, which
they called holy habits. Almost immediately, the sisters
would take the newcomer upstairs to be assigned her place
in the dormitory. The first sight that met the eye left
an impression of spotless cleanliness: long rows of (iron)
beds neatly curtained in white and windows that opened
almost to the floor, set in a large room made airy by tall
ceilings. Off the dormitory was the lavatory, with several
basins, tubs and stalls. Washing one's face in sulphur water
was a new experience for some. Supper in the refectory
(seldom called the dining room) was served after dark, and
then the girls gathered for what the sisters called recrea-
tion. Bells sounded for all changes of occupation and when
the bell rang, very loudly, for retiring, the rules of the
academy were that the girls were to obey immediately. A
new girl went through a period of orientation, learning the
rules, including early rising, and going through the beau-
tiful grounds of the academy. Students there interchanged
the words academy and convent as if they were the same, but
the convent was off bounds for the students."
The girls were allowed to take but few personal items
to the school, but each had that omnipresent boarding school
object, the traveling trunk, in which she kept her most
personal and prized possessions. Twice each year the school
had a "trunk day." The boarders carted the musty old things,
some of which were quite large, out of the dormitory and
down to the grounds below, where amongst the roses and fruit
trees they opened them up and aired out their contents.
"Trunk day" was looked forward to with some anticipation
for it was like a holiday with fun and laughter and the
exchanging and swapping of prized treasures.
Despite the confinement and strict rules, life at St.
Joseph's was not gloomy or harsh. The girls received, along
with the academic course, a traditional southern-style
finishing school education. A school prospectus described
the school's offerings. Discipline was "mild but firm,"
and the instruction the kind where "young ladies (were)
tenderly cared for and trained not only in matters of knowl-
edge, but also in the principles of refined deportment."
There was constant emphasis on morals and manners.
Tuition and board were $140 per year. There were no
uniforms except on Sundays when the girls were required to
wear black dresses, white shirtwaists , and high-buttoned
shoes. Rules and regulations were closely supervised, and
included "strict adherence to correct and refined language,
polite deportment, gentle and engaging manners at all times,
mandatory attendance at all public exercises, the obser-
vance of silence except in hours of recreation, no visits
home during the entire year, the subjection of letters and
packages to inspection, and the prohibition of private
"Music, both vocal and instrumental, as well as draw-
ing and painting, received special attention. The latest in
chemistry apparatus was at the command of the pupils.
Boarders were taught, without extra charge, plain sewing,
embroidery, different kinds of needle work and the making
of French lace. Every means was taken on the part of the
sisters to make the academy not only a place where knowledge
and manners were acquired, but also to make the institution
a happy home for the pupils during their school terms. . . .
The academy had some modern conveniences, with water through-
out the house and cold and warm sulphur baths available. . . ,
Convent girls learned to live by group rules."
One boarder left this delightful description of the
typical day in the life of a St. Joseph girl: "There are
always some sleepy heads among the crowd, so the sister in
charge has to shake the lazy ones and tell them the bell
has rung. When all are up one of the girls says prayers
and some answer. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. It
depends on how I feel. Then we hurry to dress--not much
time for primping but if you do not look neat you are
ordered back to the dormitory before school and lose a mark
on neatness. Besides you are reprimanded by one of the
sisters before the other girls. As we do not enjoy that we
try to look our prettiest. The next thing we hear is the
clapping of hands. That is another signal and it means that
it is time for Mass. We have one little girl who primps so
long before the glass that she is never ready to go down-
stairs with the rest. You can hear her thin voice chirp-
ing out, 'Please don't lock the door, sister.' Sister
stood the nonsense as long as she could, but one day she
locked the young lady in and the rest of us proceeded on
our way. The young lady rushed downstairs on the sisters'
side of the house and met us on the second landing, and
talked indignantly about being closed in. Downstairs this
is what we met: 'Well, girls, I thought a regiment of
soldiers was coming and not a crowd of convent girls. ' We
know who was the guilty one but said nothing. We went a
little farther on when out popped a sister from the
chapel: 'What do you mean, girls, by talking so loud. You
knov; you are not permitted to talk going to or coming from
the chapel.' All looked at one another and giggled a little
and then proceeded to the chapel. We are expected to be
there on time to say morning prayers before Mass, but some-
times we are too late and other times we are too soon. It
is very seldom, however, that we fail by being too early.
Mass over we march out to breakfast. Occasionally some
girls will laugh or talk so much that we all are called
back and made to walk from the chapel to the refectory again.
By this time we are quite hungry and are ready for break-
fast so we behave. After breakfast we go upstairs and make
up our beds; then some go to practice, others to study.
From half-past eight to half-past two we are in school.
From two- thirty until four we do fancy work, play or read,
from four to six we study, at six we go to the chapel to
say the beads. When the beads are said, we go to supper.
After supper, if it is pleasant, we recreate in the yard;
if not we go to the sitting room where the sister reads
aloud to us large girls while we work on embroidery. The
juniors at their end of the room play games or talk. Some-
times they forget they are in the house and become too
boisterous then sister stops reading to say, 'Not so loud,
girls.' At eight-fifteen the bell rings to retire. We go
to the chapel and one of the older girls says night prayers.
Then we must go in silence and order to the dormitory. Some
of us would like to 'cut up' but we know that if we do not
go up in order, we will be marched down again and again
until we do as we are told; as that is not very enjoyable
we usually try to behave. Some are noble enough to do right
because it is right, but others — well, it takes all kinds
of people to make a world."
Life within the confines of St. Joseph's Academy was
not completely isolated. During the 1880s, when May lived
there, St. Augustine was a lively city. Henry Flagler had
become fascinated with the area, where he came on his
honeymoon in 1883, and had decided to turn the town into a
fashionable winter resort for the rich. During the decade
the place underwent a major boom in building and expansion.
There was an excitement which permeated all of north Florida.
Northern tourists, many in their private railroad cars,
arrived to stay in the magnificent hotels, the Ponce de Leon,
the Alcazar, and the Cordova, which Flagler built. There
were parties, fancy-dress balls, lawn tennis, trips to the
beach, historic sites to visit, and promenades along the
waterfront to keep the winter tourists busy.
May and the other girls knew of the exciting happen-
ings taking place just beyond the school's walls. They
heard about the parties and the social life and about the
rich and famous people who were visiting the town. For the
girls there were occasional chaperoned visits to local
stores to shop. There were also school plays, musicals,
picnics, and games to keep them occupied. Sometimes there
were even trips to the beach. According to one school
advertisement, parents were advised that "there is a fine
bath house situated on the Bay near the Convent (and) the
young ladies are frequently taken to bathe." May lxked
St. Augustine, and after leaving the school she visited the
city each winter for over thirty years.
The scholastic year was divided into two terms cover-
ing the months of September through January and February
through June. There were written examinations at the end
of each term. The curriculum was divided into primary,
junior, and senior courses of study. May was an excellent
student. Self -motivated, articulate, and inquisitive, she
had a brilliant mind. She was one of the best pupils ever
to attend the school and was a regular member of the honor
roll. She became proficient in music, piano, voice, and art,
and was awarded a gold medal for excellence in class work
in her junior year. She received gold medals in her
senior year for achievements in music, art, piano, voice
English composition, and French. Her course requirement
for her senior program, which took three years to complete,
included catechism, Church history, etymology, geography,
ancient history, Middle Ages history, rhetoric, grammar,
science, mental and practical arithmetic, algebra, elocu-
tion, modern history, logic, chemistry, botany, geology,
literature, astronomy, composition, classics, bookkeeping,
mental philosophy, and civil government.
May graduated valedictorian of her class in 1889.
Her valedictory address was entitled "Beyond the Alps Lies
Italy." It was an amazing little Victorian composition,
poetic in style, in which she described, through metaphor,
her years of residence and study at St. Joseph's and how she
felt about it and home now that she had achieved her goal
and was leaving. She had climbed the mountains and overcome
all obstacles, and down below lay the fair vista of a lovely
land which beckoned her onward.
May did not leave the convent immediately but elected
to stay an extra year for post-graduate study. By the time
she left the school she was eighteen and an articulate,
well-educated young woman who was ready to take her place
in the outside world. Her fellow students wrote of her:
"our esteemed friend and schoolmate, Miss May Mann through
her amiable disposition is much regarded and will ever have
the fondest love of her teachers and companions. Having
entered the academy when a mere child she was placed under
the careful guardianship of the sisters. At the expiration
of six years (she) was the worthy recipient of the highest
honors. She proved herself to be a studious girl, a res-
pectful pupil and a faithful friend. "
During their years in St. Augustine, Austin Mann
visited his daughters frequently. Undoubtedly he approved
of the educational program at the convent for he publicly
supported the school by advertising in its monthly publi-
cations. 19 During school holidays and summers May stayed
with her father at "Crystal Grove" and later at Brooksville,
where he moved in 1887. During those times she often accom-
panied him to his political meetings and on his travels
around his district. She received much valuable political
experience during those visits home.
Austin married a third time. In January of 1891 he
married Alsina M. Clark of Jacksonville. She was much
younger than he and outlived him by many years. May was
distraught that her father married a woman her own age but
she soon forgave him and became a good friend of her young
stepmother. Mann's political career had continued while
his daughters were at St. Joseph's. From 1883 until 1887 he
represented Hernando County and the twenty-second district
in the state senate. As a member of the liberal wing of
the Democratic party, he differed with the Bourbon leader-
ship over the issues of railroad and corporate regulation,
agricultural policy, and Negro rights.
Mann attended the 1883, 1885, and 1887 legislative
sessions. His main interest was agriculture and the pro-
motion and development of the state. For two sessions he
chaired the committees on agriculture and immigration. He
tried without success to get a state bureau and commission
of agriculture established, and he sought to promote Florida
by urging the state's participation in world and regional
fairs. Mann also served on committees which investigated
the Disston land sale, Indian War claims, and the Internal
Improvement Fund. Well known throughout Florida, it was
rumored that he would become the Independent party's candi-
date for governor in 1884, but he spurned that movement and
supported the regular Democratxc candidates.
In the 18 85 session Mann somewhat reluctantly sup-
ported Wilkinson Call's election to the United States
Senate, for he doubted the sincerity of Call's liberalism.
During that session he served on the committee which organ-
ized the historic state constitution convention which
convened at Tallahassee, June 9, 1885. He played a promi-
nent role at the convention, chairing the committee on
suffrage and eligibility, around which swirled several of
the convention's most controversial issues. The 1885
Constitution decentralized state government and stripped
the governor of much of his appointive powers. Mann favored
homerule and local elections, and he clashed with representa-
tives from "blackbelt" counties who favored a strong execu-
tive and who wanted to disfranchise Negroes by adopting
the poll tax. The poll tax was not popular in the counties
in which whites predominated. Mann, who sided with farmers
and labor, believed that the "poll tax was unfair to the
hard-working laboring class." He was responsible for the
constitutional articles which made prohibition a matter of
local option and which authorized construction of a cross-
Florida ship canal. He also supported creation of a state
commissioner of agriculture.
In the 18 37 legislature Mann attempted to take over
the leadership of the anti-railroad Democrats from the Call
faction, but he failed. He withdrew his public endorsement
of Call whom he considered a "windbag" and a "fair weather
liberal." His feud with Call, which lasted for many years,
consumed much of his energy. In the 1837 session he also
supported a bill which created Pasco and Citrus counties out
of parts of Hernando County, although passage of this bill
was to prove harmful to his career.
A special election was called to choose representa-
tives for the new counties. The election in Citrus County,
Mann's old-new district, turned into a donnybrook. Mann,
who was standing for reelection and who was already a con-
troversial figure, threw his support behind the new town
of Mannsfield, for county seat. He was one of its developers
and had already succeeded in having it designated as the
temporary county seat. The campaign became heated, and two
factions developed labeled Manns and anti-Manns.
Mann was soundly defeated. One anecdote of the con-
test was told years later by May and others and perhaps
gives a clue to why he lost. It seems that, "the only
charge that could be brought against [Mann] was that he
was an aristocrat. He denied the charge and said he loved
Citrus County and its people, and was a cracker just like
the rest of them. But when it came to the political
speeches, the anti-Manns were loaded for bear. They charged
that the senator slept in a nightshirt and was, therefore,
an aristocrat. They called his hand when he was making a
speech and forced him to admit that he (had) slept in a
nightshirt even the night before. So what more did the
people want? The candidate himself had admitted that he
slept in a nightshirt, and anyone who slept in a nightshirt
was an aristocrat, and an aristocrat was not a cracker,
and by no stretch of the imagination should an aristocrat
be a senator from Citrus County; and if you voted for him,
someone might think you had a 'tetch' of aristocracy in
your own system and might tell someone else. And it was
just possible that it would become common knowledge. And
that would be a disgrace that you could never live down.
On election day the senator was snowed under.'
Mann's town fared little better. When an election
was held to choose the county seat charges of stuffed ballot
boxes resulted in an inconclusive outcome. The anti-Mann
group settled the issue once and for all. They moved all
the courthouse records, furniture, and equipment to Inverness
at night, catching the Mann forces off guard. Mannsfield
soon became a ghost town. Angered and humiliated by his
defeat and suffering from financial losses sustained during
the harsh winter of 1886, Austin Mann left Crystal River.
He sold "Crystal Grove" and most of his other properties
in that area and moved to Brooksville. There he established
a new grove, bought the local newspaper, and began to prac-
tice law. He continued his interest in politics.
The 1880s were the years of farm discontent through-
out the South and West. In 1887 the Farmer's Alliance,
which had begun in Texas, began to organize in Florida. By
1889 it was estimated that there were 20,000 Alliance mem-
bers in the state. Mann was sympathetic to the organiza-
tion's aims, some of which he had been espousing for years.
He soon became one of its most prominent leaders. News
reporters referred to him as the Alliance's "silver tongued
orator." It was Mann who organized the historic national
convention which the Alliance held at Ocala in December of
1890. Out of that meeting came the famous populist plat-
form known as the "Ocala Demands." It called for the
abolition of all national banks, establishment of a sub-
treasury plan which would provide farmers low-cost loans,
regulation of railroads and trusts, direct popular election
of United States Senators, coinage of unlimited amounts of
silver, reform of the tariff system, and passage of a nation-
al graduated income tax. All were radical ideas for those
In the fall of 1890 the Alliance entered candidates
in all of Florida's political races. Mann ran for the
House, and it turned out to be one of his toughest races.
According to one historian it was a heated contest. Mann
"had made a number of enemies in [Brooksville] because of
the positions he took on the political issues of the
day. ... It was a bitter campaign with lots of mud sling-
ing on both sides." Despite an anti-Mann torchlight
parade on election eve Austin won the election.
Over two-thirds of the 1891 legislators were
Alliancemen and Mann was their leader. The legislative
session was one of the stormiest on record. Wilkinson
Call, Austin's old enemy, was up for reelection to the
Senate. He was opposed by the railroad tycoon William D.
Chipley and by Alliancemen, led by Mann. The two groups
were uncomfortable "bedf ellows" ; only their opposition to
Call united them. The pro- and con-Call forces actively
debated his reelection. Mann's harsh laugh was often
heard by the news reporters as it echoed above the din in
the House. One of Mann's speeches v/as described as "a
series of explosions." The pro-Alliance Daily Floridian
called him "the Hero of Hernando." After weeks of incon-
clusive wrangling and deadlocked votes Call ' s reelection
was finally decided by an episode known as "Eabes-in-the-
Woods." Seeking to prevent a quorum, Mann persuaded more
than a dozen legislators to go on a "picnic" the day a
crucial vote was to be taken. They journeyed to Thomasville,
Georgia, where they whiled away the time eating lunch and
drinking cider. The ploy failed. The pro-Call men,
undaunted by the maneuver, called a joint session and de-
clared a quorum of both houses and reelected their candi-
date. It was a bitter defeat for Mann and his Alliance
Disillusioned with his fellow Democrats and disap-
pointed that the party did not adopt the Alliance's plat-
form at its 1892 state convention, Mann broke with the
Democratic party. He joined the newly formed People's
Party, or Populist Party, as it was more commonly called,
and became its candidate for Congress. Mann and the Popu-
lists were branded as traitors by the Democrats. They were
also opposed by almost every major newspaper in the state.
The Jasper News derisively denounced Mann as "the chief
hornblower [of a] scalaway circus." He and the other
Populists were soundly defeated in the election. The
agrarian movement was over, and so was Austin Mann's politi-
cal career. Earlier, when the Alliance's co-op programs
had gone under, Mann had remarked that "we busted because
we failed." The statement, while simplistic, applied just
as aptly to his defeat in 18 92. He never again ran for
public office although he continued to voice his unpopular
and controversial views. He turned his interests elsewhere
and began to work to improve Florida's road system and to
develop the state's natural resources.
May observed firsthand the last stormy years of her
father's political career. In 1890 she left St. Joseph's and
joined him in Brooksville. She helped him with his politi-
cal campaign and with the arrangements of the Ocala convention.
Late in 1890 her father introduced her to William Sherman
Jennings, a judge from Brooksville who was an ambitious
young man beginning to make a name for himself in Democratic
party circles. Jennings was smitten with May, who had
grown into a very attractive woman. Vivacious and charming,
she was also Jennings' intellectual equal and she enjoyed
politics as much as he did. They began to see each other
often at political rallies, church socials, and cotillion
dances. Soon he was calling at the Mann house to court her
During part of the 1891 legislative session May
assisted her father. They lived at the St. James hotel
while in Tallahassee. She attended House sessions and
handled Mann's correspondence and appointments. She also
acted as his hostess. Government buildings were considered
male sanctuaries in those days, and May must have created
something of a stir as she moved through the Capitol corri-
dors and offices. She was small, slim, fashionably dressed,
and she wore her hair in the flattering Gibson Girl style.
She enjoyed politics, and her capabilities, enthusiasm, and
ease in handling politicians and adjusting to their way of
life were quickly noticed by her associates. She soon made
friends with legislators, their wives, and other state
Jennings frequently visited Tallahassee on business.
He made it his business to see May as often as possible.
There were many places to go. Tallahassee, with a popula-
tion of 2,000, was an exciting community, particularly when
the legislature was in session. There were parties, dinners
and dances. Picnics at Hall Lake and concerts by the Talla-
hassee Silver Cornet Band provided entertainment. Quieter
activities were also available. One local newspaper noted
that, "the young folks of Tallahassee enjoy (the) lovely
moonlight nights. Long (buggy) drives over the hard clay
roads (on) cool, clear, nights arouse all the poetry in
one s bexng."
Sherman and May were married in Tallahassee on May
12, 1891. She was eighteen and he was twenty-nine. Talla-
hassee had never seen such an elegant wedding. The ceremony
took place in the Methodist church (the Baptist church had
recently burned down) , with Mann giving his daughter away
and the members of the Legislature standing in a body to
escort the newlyweds down the aisle. The local newspaper
noted that the young couple departed the following day for
St. Augustine, where they spent their honeymoon. May's
former schoolmates at St. Joseph commented on the marriage.
They wrote with enthusiasm: "We extend our sincerest wishes
to the newlyweds, and hope that as they glide over a silvery
ocean of time, the tide of a just life may bear them to a
heavenly felicity. "
May and Sherman were well suited to each other.
Their partnership had been made, figuratively and literally,
in the halls of government. Similar in background, educa-
tion, and aspirations, their union proved to be very happy.
They were to work side-by-side for the next thirty years,
and it was fortunate for Florida that this happened. The
young couple had set their goals. The future beckoned and
before them lay fair Italy.
Notes to Chapter II
St. Joseph Academy Roll, 1883, located in St.
Joseph archives. The Mann girls' ages were erroneously-
listed as twelve and eight.
2 . .
Living Waters (St. Augustine, 1966), n.p.
Sister Thomas Joseph McGoldrick, "The Contribution
of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine to Education,
1866-1960" (M.A. thesis, University of Florida, 1960) ,
Sister Mary Alberta, "A Study of the Schools Con-
ducted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Diocese of
St. Augustine, Florida, 1866-1940" (M.A. thesis, University
of Florida, 1940) , passim.
Tne author was given a personal tour of the school
by Sister Mary Albert Luzzier, February 19, 197 8.
May Jennings to Carrie McCollum, April 30, 1915.
MMJ Papers, Box 5.
Jane Qumn, The Story of a Nun: Jeanie Gordon
Brown (St. Augustine, 1978), p. 68.
Prospectus of St. Joseph's Academy (St. Augustine,
1890) , nTp":
Quinn, Story of a Nun , p. 85.
Florida Latimer, "Convent Life," Pascua Florida ,
XIV, February, 1903. Quoted in Quinn, ~ ~Story of a Nun ,
p. 86-87. *
Edward Nelson Akin, "Southern Reflections of the
Gilded Age: Henry M. Flagler's System, 1885-1913" (Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Florida, 1975) , passim.
The St. Augustine Directory (St. Augustine, 1884) ,
Pascua Florida , II, May 1889, p. 9.
Biographical sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919.
MMJ Papers, Box 16.
Prospectus of St. Joseph's Academy , 1890, n.p.
Valedictory address. See Appendxx I.
Pascua Florida , II, June, 1891, p. 10.
Ibid . Flyleaf. One such advertisement read "the
Florida Orange and Vegetable Auction Company of Jacksonville,
Florida. Over one-hundred dealers represented, A.S. Mann,
President and Manager."
Edward C. Williamson, "Independentism: A Challenge
to the Florida Democracy of 1884," Florida Historical
Quarterly , XXVII, July, 1948, p. 147.
Edward C. Williamson, "The Constitutional Conven-
tion of 1885," Florida Historical Quarterly , XLI , October
1962, p. 116.
Edward C. Williamson, Florida Politics in the Gilded
Age: 1877-1893 (Gainesville, 1976), p. 137.
23 Ibid . , p. 183.
Judge E.C. May, Gaters, Skeeters, and Malary:
Recollections of a Pioneer Florida Judge (New York, 1953),
Ibid . , p. 57 .
The newspaper was the Brooksville Register , whose
editor was Cash Thomas. According to Stanaback's A History
of Hernando County the paper was well written and won prizes
at state fairs. See Stanaback, p. 171.
Lloyd Walter Cory, "The Florida Farmer's Alliance:
1887-1892" (M.A. thesis, Florida State University, 1963),
James O. Knauss, "The Farmer's Alliance in Florida,"
The South Atlantic Quarterly , XXV, July, 1926, pp. 300-315.
Stanaback, History of Hernando County , p. 129.
Tallahassee Daily Floridian , April 12, 1891.
Jasper News , August 12, 1892.
Arnold M. Pavlovsky, "We Busted Because We Failed:
Florida Politics, 1880-1908" (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton
University, 1973) , p. 151.
: Ibid . , May 27, 1891
Tallahassee Weekly Floridian , April 8, 1891.
Biographical sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919.
MMJ Papers, Box 16.
Tallahassee Daily Floridian , May 14, 1891.
Pascua Florida, II, June, 1891, p. 10.
William Sherman Jennings was destined for a distin-
guished career and would eventually be elected governor of
Florida. His ascent within the Democratic party was one of
the most meteoric in the state's history. Born March 24,
1863, at Walnut Hill, Marion County, Illinois, he was one
of nine children. His parents, longtime residents of the
area, were Josephus Waters Jennings and Amanda Couch Jen-
nings. Both were descended from colonial ancestors.
Josephus Jennings was an attorney and for many years judge
of the Marion County court.
Jennings attended local schools and in 1882 and 1883
he attended Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbon-
dale. While there he served as a first sergeant in the
Douglas Corps of Cadets. Afterwards he went to Salem,
Illinois, where he read law with his brother, Charles, and
with his uncle, Silas Bryan, father of William Jennings
Bryan, the "Great Commoner , " and the man many historians
recognize as the founder of the modern Democratic party.
Bryan's father and Jennings' mother were brother and sister,
Sherman, who was three years younger than Bryan, did not
look much like his famous cousin, nor did he have his ora-
torical skills. Still, family members remarked how alike
the two were in physical build and in personal philosophy,
political ideology, and religious beliefs. Bryan's wife,
Mary, later wrote May, "our husbands are so alike in body
and in mind." This similarity would not be unexpected in
men who shared a common ancestry and childhood. Throughout
their lives the two cousins were close friends. There is
little doubt that the relationship was an asset to Sherman's
career, for on several occasions Bryan arrived in Florida
to give Sherman's political career a boost. Three different
times in the 189 0s Bryan spoke in Brooksville, once from the
balcony of the Jennings home.
In 1885 Sherman attended Union Law School, where his
brother and Bryan had received their legal training. This
institution was one of the most distinguished in Illinois,
but its facilities were unimpressive. Located in downtown
Chicago, it was housed "in a single building and consisted
of a solitary lecture room, an office shared by the dean
and his faculty . . . (and) a roof garden (which) had been
transformed into a library."
After Jennings left the school he decided to move
south. It is not known why he came to Florida or how he
chose Brooksville as his new home, but he arrived in the
little town in late 1885. He was twenty-two years of age.
Pictures of him about this time show him to be a man of medium
height and of stocky build. He had brown hair and eyes and
he wore a prominent mustache. He dressed well and presented
a dignified appearance. He was reserved in his personal
One amusing fact about his trip to Florida was later
used against him in the heat of a campaign. He paid for
his trip south working as a drummer, or salesman, for a
patent medicine company. He was later accused of having
arrived in the state on a medicine wagon "hawking snake
oil." Jennings never denied the accusation and turned the
information to his advantage. He stated that he was proud
to have been a workingman who came from modest circumstances.
Wasn't it the American way that a chap who was ambitious and
hardworking could rise in station and become a leader of
Jennings' intelligence and industriousness enabled
him to succeed quicker than most men his age. In May of
1886, just a few months after his arrival in Brooksville, he
was admitted to the Florida bar. Eventually he was prac-
ticing before the state Supreme Court. In 18 87 he was
appointed court commissioner of the Sixth Judicial Circuit,
and the following year was appointed county judge of Hernando
County. A few months later he was elected to the same
office for a full four-year term. As his involvement in
local politics increased so did his influence and prestige
within the Democratic party.
Jennings took an active part in Brooksville ' s and
Hernando County's civic affairs. For several years he
served as a county commissioner and for a decade he was a
city councilman. Eight of those years he was president of
the council. He also served as president of the Brooks-
ville High School board of trustees, and held a commission
as colonel in the Fifth Florida Regiment. One student
remembered that the future governor frequently drove out to
the high school in his buggy to drill the school boys in
military tactics. On March 5, 1890, he married Corinne
Jordan, the daughter of a Brooksville merchant, but she
died only a few months after the ceremony.
When Jennings married May he found the ideal compan-
ion. Not only was she his intellectual equal but they
shared common goals and aspirations. Both held a strong
sense of noblesse oblige; community service was seen as a
duty. High public and private standards were considered to
be obligatory by those who considered themselves to be good
After their honeymoon, May and Sherman returned to
Brooksville. In 1891 it was an attractive, bustling com-
munity of about 500 inhabitants. It had twenty stores, a
newspaper, printing office, courthouse, Florida Southern
Railway depot, and not a single paved street or sidewalk.
There were many trees and in spring and summer the woods
were filled with wild flowers. Agricultural enterprises
formed the largest industry. Before the great freezes of
1894-1895 large orange, lemon, and grapefruit groves dotted
the hillsides. From Booksville alone "100,000 boxes (of
citrus) were shipped annually." Phosphate mines and
timber added to the economy.
Brooksville was situated upon some of the most
beautiful land in Florida. There were gently rolling hills
which provided far distant vistas. The soil was rich and
dark brown in color. Numerous hammocks harbored magnifi-
cent stands of hardwood trees. One visitor described the
area as "the most un-Florida appearing place imaginable."
Brooksville especially appealed to Midwesterners for it
reminded them in many ways of home, although one traveler
said it resembled "western New York" state. A land sales
booklet, published in Chicago, stated that land near
Brooksville was "as good as Illinois soil." it also
claimed that the area had "no snakes," a fact apparently
comforting to citified Northerners.
May and Sherman built a large house in Brooksville
and it became a center of social activity for the young
married set of the community. A few months after their
marriage an item in the local paper announced that "the
frame of Judge Jennings' new residence looms upon Howell's
Hill. It will be the handsomest residence in town." The
house was a large, white, two-story wood structure which had
porches, lead glass doors, and balconies. One contemporary
commented upon its attractiveness and spacious grounds. It
was noted by the same observer that, "Mrs. Jennings, as well
as her husband, takes great pride in keeping (the) home in
the most excellent and inviting condition. She carefully
superintends in person every detail of home management."
May enjoyed the outdoors and worked energetically in her
yard. Her home was surrounded by flowers and trees and
vegetable gardens. She also had chickens and a cow to care
for. An observer described her domestic proclivities as
follows: "While (Mrs. Jennings') many graces of mind and
person eminently qualify her to preside over the social
functions incident to her exalted position, she is at the
same time more domestic than many a farmer's wife, and loves
her poultry, her garden and her flowers."
May spent much of her time making dress patterns
and often employed a seamstress; she was fashion conscious
and liked to wear the latest styles. Though small of stature,
she was always dignified in her appearance; contemporaries
remembered that she stood ramrod straight and carried her
head high. Her bearing was perhaps the result of her
training in "refined deportment" which she had received at
St. Joseph's Academy. She never appeared in public without
wearing gloves and a hat, even years later, after styles had
been modified and were less formal. Her hats, usually
large and decorated with bright bows and flowers, became
her trademark. She was not an imperious woman, and her
manner was never arrogant. Although self-confident and
not afraid to speak her own mind, she was not over-bearing.
She was well liked and had many friends. Later, there were
many followers and emulaters.
May and Sherman were Brooksville ' s most active couple.
For ten years they busied themselves with the political,
civic, business, and social activities of the community.
In November of 1893, their only child, Sherman Bryan Jennings,
was born. He received the devoted love and attention of his
parents. As he grew up he was taken into their confidences
and was excluded from few of their activities. As her
father had treated her, so did May relate to her own son.
Next to her husband, her son was to become one of her closest
allies and friends. It was noted that the Jennings treated
Bryan "like a dear chum" rather than a son.
The Jennings were active members in Brooksville ' s
First Baptist Church. Since Sherman had moved to Florida he
had publicly identified himself as a Baptist. In 1889 he
attended the eighth annual convention of the Florida Sunday
School Association and pledged $25.00 to its support. For
many years he held church offices, including the vice-
presidency of the Florida Baptist Convention and membership
on the Baptist State Board of Missions. He also served as
a trustee of Stetson University. In the Brooksville church
he was a deacon and a Sunday school teacher. When the church
burned in 1899, Sherman and May led the drive to raise
building funds. Because of their Baptist beliefs neither
ever smoked tobacco nor drank alcohol. Both were sympathetic
to the temperance movement.
Jennings was elected to the state legislature in
1892 and again in 1894. In the 1893 House of Representa-
tives he served on the finance and taxation, judiciary, and
constitutional amendments committees. He was chairman of
public health and rules. He was well liked by his colleagues
and was viewed as one of the ablest young men in the state.
During the 1895 legislative session he served as speaker of
the House. It was a responsible and powerful position and
he garnered many friends and admirers at that time. The
following year, Jennings was elected a presidential elector
on the Bryan-Sewall ticket. By 18 98, when he served as
chairman of the Democratic state convention at Ocala, his
name had become recognized throughout the state.
During the 1890s Jennings built up a busy and lucra-
tive law practice. His professional card read "W.S. Jennings,
Atty. at Law, Solicitor in Chancery. Office in the Bank
Building." His business interests included ownership
and management of several citrus groves, including a sizable
operation near Leesburg; organization and management of the
Brooksville Orange Company; and vice-presidency of the
Brooksville State Bank. He also added to his own real
estate holdings. By 1900 Jennings could be regarded as a
man of substantial wealth.
While her husband's political and fiscal fortunes
were on the ascendancy, May was also making a name for
herself. She became one of Brooksville ' s most active
clubwomen. Although she worked to enhance her husband's
career, she always reserved time to pursue her own interests,
mainly club and community work. Her involvement in these
activities increased over the years. Eventually she would
become a recognized state leader. It is likely that she
helped organize Brooksville ' s first woman's club, the Whit-
tier Club (later the Ladies' Improvement Association), for
she was its recognized leader. Intelligent and articulate,
she was too interested in political and civic matters to
remain uninvolved. Notices similar to the following began
to appear with regularity, "The Ladies' Improvement Associa-
tion will meet at Mrs. W.S. Jennings', Thursday the 31st."
The women involved themselves in numerous charitable
and civic activities. One irritating public problem which
concerned the Brooksville women was the nuisance created by
the town's lack of a fence law. Livestock roamed everywhere;
animals slept in the streets, doorways, and on private
lawns. It was a familiar Florida problem, common to all towns
and was to plague the state for many years. In Brooksville
it was such an annoyance that on several occasions city
emergency action was taken and men were employed to "chase
down and capture the animals." The ladies kept pressuring
city officials (in many cases their own husbands) to do some-
thing about the matter which was becoming also a health
menance. Meetings were held and letters to the editor
appeared frequently. One writer asked, "Can you tell me
why we have to run the risk of breaking our necks over a
lot of sleeping cows everytime we go out?
The problem created by free-roaming livestock was of
such magnitude and so pervasive that when the clubwomen in
the state formally organized the Florida Federation of
Women's Clubs in 1895, it was the first major issue they
addressed. It also proved to be one of the most contro-
versial and one of the longest. For more than fifty years
women fought to remedy this situation, and May Jennings was
one of the leaders in this battle.
In 18 99 she turned her attention away from clubwork
to help her husband achieve his goal of being elected
governor of Florida. She had attended the previous three
Democratic state conventions as well as the 1893 and 1895
legislative sessions. She had worked for her husband as
she had earlier supported her father; now she realized she
would have the opportunity to put her political knowledge
and organizational skills to work for a cause personally
dear to her. She would work hard but very much enjoy the
months that lay ahead.
That she was one of Jennings' great political assets
was recognized by many. One newpaper wrote, "There is little
doubt that the rise of young Jennings was promoted by his
marriage to May Mann, a lady of great charm (who) inherited
much of her father's political ability. She was just such
a person who would impress all those who came in contact
with her, just such a one as would prove a most fitting
helpmeet ( sic ) to a husband who had both ability and polit-
Another contemporary noted that May had acquired
"from her gifted and confiding father a keen interest in
public affairs (and was) from girlhood equipped for the
brilliant social career which is offered to the wife of an
ambitious, able and influential public man. . . . Jennings
owes much of his subsequent success at the bar and in the
field of politics to the keen intelligence and winning tact
of his wife (who) takes a very intelligent interest in
political affairs. The advancement of her husband ... is
very near and dear to her heart. Her modest and unassuming
manner stops her from claiming any credit . . . but it is
certain that he owes much to her excellent judgment and
. . . 27
untiring efforts in his behalf."
From the time Jennings joined the Democratic party
he had been identified with its liberal, anti-Bourbon wing.
He was never regarded as a radical "wool hatter" as his
controversial father-in-law had been; he was seen by many
as a middle-of-the-road moderate. Nevertheless, he was a
progressive as it was defined in early twentieth-century
American political history. Other liberals of his genera-
tion included Congressman Stephen Mai lory, Frank Pope,
Duncan Fletcher, United States Senator Wilkinson Call, B.H.
Palmer, and the Jacksonville "straightouts," John N.C.
Stockton, J.M. Barrs, and Napoleon Bonaparte Broward.
The liberals opposed the party conservatives and the
so-called "silk hat" railroad and corporate kingpins who,
since the end of Reconstruction, had orchestrated and bene-
fited from Florida's version of "the great American
barbecue," in which the resources and rewards of the state
were controlled by a small business elite, known as the
Bourbons. ' This conservative faction included William D.
Chipley, James Taliaferro, Ziba King, William D. Bloxham,
Henry B. Plant, F.A. Hendry, and Henry M. Flagler. The
two sides clashed over state land grant policy, railroad
regulation, state funding and taxation, political patronage,
and nomination and election reforms.
For more than twenty years the two sides were to
fight for control of the state. The tumultuous 9 0s had
witnessed the rise and demise of the Populists and the
bitter battles over Senator Call's elections. It also saw
skirmishes over railroad regulation and election reforms.
These confrontations had finally resulted in such diffusion
and dilution of power within the Florida Democratic party
that, as one historian noted, "no single interest (could)
control Florida politics." It was everyman for himself.
The party developed into a formless union of "warring,
amorphous personal factions." In 1900 the party's nomina-
tions seemed wide open. It would be the last time that the
nominating convention would be utilized to select nominees
for state office. Henceforth, nominations would result
from the primary system. In 1900 the Democratic nomination
would go to the man who could corral the most delegates
prior to the party convention. In a one-party state like
Florida, nomination was tantamount to election. The time
seemed right for an ambitious and relatively fresh newcomer.
Sherman Jennings decided to enter the race.
The effort would not be easy. There was no pervasive
state political machine, as there were in other southern
states, but Jennings felt that he had as good as chance as
any other political hopeful. He had quietly sent out in-
quiries to friends around the state asking for an assessment
of his chances. The replies were encouraging. In the spring
of 1899 he and May journeyed to Tallahassee and while there
they dined with Governor and Mrs. Bloxham. Whether they
revealed Sherman's intentions is not known, but when they
returned to Brooksville they began to prepare for the pre-
convention campaign. Aware that he was at a disadvantage
because he was a Northerner by birth and had not served in
the Civil War, Jennings was determined to lessen these
handicaps. In June he purchased a copy of George R. Fair-
bank's newly-published History of Florida , and began to
learn as much as he could about the history of his adopted
state. He did not intend to be unprepared or appear
ignorant about the state he sought to govern. He subscribed
to the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , the states ' most
influential newspaper. He composed a biographical sketch
of himself, sat for a formal photograph, and gave an inter-
view to a reporter representing the Atlanta Constitution .
He also purchased a new surrey and a pair of sleek horses.
In the beginning May acted as campaign manager; she
helped devise strategy and organized the letter and mailing
operations. Sherman later appointed George C. Martin, a
Brooksville attorney and a prominent party official, as
his manager. A circular letter was sent to every county
asking for precinct information and the names of local dele-
gates. According to one writer Jennings was the last
Florida "gubernatorial hopeful to sit on his front porch
and conduct his pre-convention canvass by mail." Despite
the restrained tone of this campaign, as compared with later
ones in Florida history, Jennings did some personal politick-
ing, but he combined it with legitimate business travels.
Late in 1899 he was appointed to the Democratic state execu-
tive committee. This was a boon to his candidacy for it
gave him greater exposure and allowed him to keep tabs on
the other gubernatorial hopefuls.
Jennings was supported by delegates throughout Flori-
da, but most of his strength came from the central and south-
west portions of the state. His supporters represented all
segments of the population. His earliest backers included
men like Asa Roberts, Desota County editor; J.F. Dorman,
Suwanee County tax collector; Herbert F. Drane, Lakeland
insurance agent and party official; and Frank M. Simonton,
a powerful Tampa political personality.
While her husband traveled around the state May
remained in Brooksville and ran the law office, which also
served as campaign headquarters. She supervised all the
correspondence. It was a prodigious task, but she proved
capable and efficient. One contemporary wrote that she
organized and executed "the hardest and most fatiguing,
yet quite the most important work of the struggle (and) the
masterly manner in which she handled the mass of correspond-
ence and routine work of the campaign (could) be attested
to by hundreds of prominent Floridians."
The pre-convention slate was so crowded with can-
didates that the Florida Times-Union published numerous
front page cartoons which poked fun at the plethora of
gubernatorial aspirants. Much of the campaign seemed to
be conducted through the newspapers. It was lackluster, and
seemed to generate little interest or enthusiasm. One
paper lamented the "scarcity of state political news," while
another declared that "the people (were) tired of politics."
Only Jennings ' campaign managed to create any excitement
when his famous cousin William Jennings Bryan visited the
state. In February of 1900, Bryan spent four days in
Brooksville. He gave one speech from the balcony of the
Jennings' home. His visit received wide press coverage in
the state and proved to be a publicity bonanza for Sherman's
The real campaign took place, not in the newspapers,
but in the county conventions where delegates for the state
meetings were chosen. The local caucuses were generally
volatile affairs as the various candidates finagled and
maneuvered to secure delegates. By the time the state
convention convened in Jacksonville on June 19, 1900, the
slate had been reduced to five recognized candidates, al-
though the counties had selected only 115 instructed dele-
gates out of a possible 282. The Deland Record declared
that "so many of the counties are sending uninstructed
delegates that what will be the convention's will is simply
guesswork." Another paper ran a banner headline telling
the public to "Pay your money--Take your choice.
The candidates, in addition to Sherman, were Fred T.
Myers, Leon County state senator; James D. Beggs, Orange
County judge; William H. Milton, Jr. , Jackson County
committeeman and son of Florida's Civil War governor; and
Danette H. Mays, Jefferson County legislator. All were
more politically conservative than Sherman. Jennings was
considered to have a slight advantage over the others. The
Tampa Tribune , which endorsed him, wrote: "The political signs
of the times point almost invariably to Jennings (whose)
strength has proved a revelation to his opponents and a
. . 40
little surprising even to his friends."
The 1900 convention has been described as one of
"the most remarkable political conventions ever held in
Florida. It was certainly one of the rowdiest and most
tumultuous. It met in Jacksonville's new Emory Auditorium,
which had been specially outfitted with electric lights
and grandstands to hold the more than 2,000 people who
attended. There were fewer than 300 delegate votes. The
hall was decorated with potted ferns and palms, 1,500 yards
of red, white, and blue bunting, and large pictures of
famous past Democratic party greats. "A giant portrait of
Willian Jennings Bryan gazed benignly from the back wall
of the rostrum. " A band was hired to entertain the spec-
tators and delegates during lulls in the sessions.
Jacksonville was almost overwhelmed by the event.
The town was flooded with delegates and thousands of curi-
osity seekers, including a few unsavory types. The local
press was provided with plenty of colorful copy. When the
Tampa delegation arrived, a reporter covering the event
noted that "one of the features of the trip (had been)
Colonel F.A. Salmonson, and his famous fighting gamecock
'Fred' . . . one-eyed and generally disreputable looking
as any bird that ever came to the city . . . (who the)
colonel insisted on having crow at every station on the
Delegates were provided with free streetcar passes
and free excursions on the St. Johns River and to Pablo
Beach. They were also invited to a "smoker," which, accord-
ing to one report proved to be "a howling success." Dances
were held every evening in the city's hotels, and there
were many dinner parties, receptions, and soirees in pri-
vate homes. It was advertised that "no tickets were required
to admxt ladies to the hall at anytime." Reporters noted
the "faithful attendance of the fair sex," whose "flashing
colors (and) bright costumes but added to the brilliancy
of the scene." May attended every session, sometimes
accompanied by some of the wives of Hernando delegates, and
other occasions by Mrs. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, wife of
the prominent Duval politician who was a close friend.
Although Jennings was conceded to be the favorite--
he had the largest number of committed votes and the support
of the most important newspapers--the nomination was by no
means guaranteed. When the convention was opened he had
twenty-nine committed votes; Beggs, Mays, Meyers, and Milton
had twenty-eight, twenty-seven, twenty, and eleven votes
respectively. The nomination required a total of 188 votes.
Whoever came out as winner was going to have to do some
compromising and "horsetrading. "
The Jennings party had reservations at the Windsor
Hotel, which was reported to be the convention's "storm
center . . . its lobbies and piazzas crowded until late
hours." Liberals and conservatives, businessmen and
farmers, citizens from Tallahassee and Jacksonville, and
all over Florida vied for control of the convention. The
Hernando County delegates, who strongly endorsed Jennings
had only one-sixteenth a vote each. This, as opposed to
one-fifth, one-fourth, one-half, and one vote per man in
the other delegations, caused quite a stir. It was reported
that "Jennings' fractionalization plan was a puzzle to the
politicians, a source of deep regret, and established a new
and ingenious method of preventing losses except in immate-
rial fractions." It created a stable base on which to
build convention support. "Jennings' opponents tried to
sabotage his candidacy by drawing attention to his Northern
origins and alleging he was named for the hated Yankee
general William Tecumseh Sherman. Jennings was also accused
of engaging in 'south-hating antics. 1 The 'Bloody Shirt 1
of the Civil War and Reconstruction was still being waved." "
The charges failed to sway many of the Jennings supporters.
The first two days of the convention were taken up
with choosing a chairman, drawing-up a platform, endorsing
the 1896 National Democratic platform, and nominating minor
candidates. The business of choosing a gubernatorial nomi-
nee began the third day. Jennings was nominated by CM.
Brown of Marion County and seconded by J.H. Curry and General
Allen Thomas of Hillsborough County. Eight votes were taken,
and Jennings' total climbed to 81. Myers trailed with
7 6 1/2 votes. It was exhausting for the secretaries who
"were taxed in calling and announcing the votes (and) in
the constant work of listening for the faintly heard
answers . . . from the far ends of the hall and in footing
the long columns of scores." They were "all heartily glad
of the relief that came with adjournment."
Balloting continued on the fourth, and as it turned
out, the final day of the convention. Only once did Jen-
nings trail. The climax came in the late afternoon. The
hall was filled to capacity, every seat was occupied, and
people stood up in the back and thronged the corridors. It
was hot, and the delegates were tired. The roll calls
seemed endless; everyone awaited the final outcome. Several
times during the day rumors swept the hall, causing "the
convention (to) become wild with excitement and confusion."
By the thirtieth ballot there was so much noise and confusion
that the band was called upon to play so as to restore order.
At 6 p.m., when the chair declared a suppertime recess,
Jennings had 130 votes and Mays 122 1/2.
Shortly after the convention reconvened, the deadlock
was broken. Mays arose and solemnly announced his with-
drawal. There were a few seconds of silence, and then the
delegates realized that the expected break had come, and
there was a mad scramble to switch votes. The hall was a
sea of confusion. On the forty-third ballot Beggs withdrew,
and the final obstacle was removed. On the next ballot,
cast at 10 p.m. , the Leon County delegation threw its sup-
port to Jennings and he was over the top. He had 19 2 votes,
and was declared the nominee.
The delegates and spectators broke into cheers. May,
and the ladies with her, applauded. Chaos reigned. "Dele-
gates left their places and crowded around the nominee's
chair. ... He was lifted to the shoulders of a dozen
stalwarts and carried the length of the hall." Not every-
one, as it turned out was happy; Mrs. Mays, who was seated
in the gallery, was overheard to remark, "Anybody can be
governor of Florida these days, even a jack rabbit. All
you have to do is wag your ears and you are chosen."
In a brief acceptance speech Jennings pledged his
commitment to the party's platform. He viewed his nomina-
. . 54
tion as "an honor and sacred responsibility. When the
final gavel of the convention sounded at 4 a.m. , only a few
delegates remained in the hall. "The band, worn out with
the labors of the day and night, were stretched on chairs
sound asleep or lolling about waiting with hardly concealed
impatience for the last tune."
How did Jennings win the nomination? What broke the
deadlock and why did Mays withdraw from the race? Why did
the Leon County delegation switch its vote? Did Henry
Flagler and the railroads buy the convention? These were
some of the questions being asked almost before the conven-
tion was formally ended. It was speculated that Jennings
and Mays, a corporate man, had made some kind of deal during
the 6:00 recess. It does seem likely that Mays would not
have withdrawn at that time unless he thought he would reap
some benefits for himself by that action. Yet, despite the
historical surmises and curiosity, no evidence of a deal
has ever been uncovered. The puzzles and questions still
J.D. Beggs later wrote Jennings to congratulate him
and concede that he had been "fairly and honorably nomi-
nated." But Herbert Drane saw the convention as the
hardest most vindictive fight ever." J.M. Barrs felt that
"for the first time in many years (the convention) was truly
democratic and thoroughly representative of the people . . .
many of those who had hereto dominated the party (did) not
enter the convention hall during any of its sessions. "
Two modern students of Florida politics wrote that "the
1900 convention was significant because it pointed out how
difficult it had been to keep factionalism within the bounds
of the convention system (with) party leaders (being) badly
divided over Jennings' candidacy (some) clearly feeling that
he was too progressive and too much a Yankee to be their
gubernatorial candidate. The forty-four ballots had estab-
lished a record." Perhaps Jennings was nominated for no
more sinister a reason than that he was the only middle-of-
the-road candidate both sides could accept.
The Jennings nomination was celebrated by liberals
and progressives throughout Florida. The "silk hats" had
been defeated, or at least it seemed that way for the
moment. A new era was beginning. One supporter wrote the
new nominee, "I thank God the old fossil (bourbonism) in
Florida is dead. Now we trust to have new blood, new
When the news of Jenning's nomination reached Brooks-
ville it touched off a wild celebration. The Jennings
party was met at the train station by practically the whole
population and with the firing of "Roman candles, fire-
crackers, and even .38 calibre guns. . . . The skies (were)
aglow with happiness and hilarity." A carriage drawn by
two horses and carrying onlookers to the festivities "ran
away" and dumped all its occupants out on the street. The
celebrating continued for several days.
In August, Sherman, May and son Bryan, nov; six years
old, traveled to Illinois for a rest and to visit relatives.
Jennings attended the National Democratic convention in
Indianapolis, and was present when his cousin Bryan won his
second presidential nomination. When the Jennings family
returned to Florida they began preparations for the fall
campaign. Austin Mann, now fifty-three, wrote to his son-
in-law offering his services. He could "bring up (his)
Alliance Forces" if Sherman needed them. The offer was
Although the Democratic nomination was tantamount to
election, it was deemed important to the ticket for the
candidates to campaign. An elaborate and exhaustive itiner-
ary was put together. In addition to Jennings, the party's
nominees included John L. Crawford, secretary of state;
William B. Lamar, attorney general; James B. Whitfield,
state treasurer; William N. Sheats, superintendent of public
instruction; Benjamin McLin , commissioner of agriculture;
William H. Reynolds, comptroller, J. D. Morgan, railroad
commissioner; and Stephen M. Sparkman and Robert W. Davis,
for Congress. Jennings' two opponents were Republican
Matthew B. MacFarlane and Populist A. M. Morton, neither of
whom was considered a threat.
The Florida platform called for the adoption of a
state primary law, municipal ownership of utilities, improve-
ment of public roads, reorganization of the state supreme
court, reform of public roads, reform of the convict lease
system, and support of the railroad commission. Jennings
wanted the state to increase the responsibilities of the State
Board of Health, adopt free school textbooks, and equalize
assessments and taxes. Two issues dominated the campaign;
a referendum on removal of the Capitol from Tallahassee and
a proposal for teacher examinations. Four cities vied for the
Capitol site. They were Tallahassee, Jacksonville, St.
Augustine, and Ocala. Each community lobbied vigorously
making charges and promises in the attempt to win the covet-
ed prize. The new teachers' certification program was lost
in the debate that swirled around its sponsor, William N.
Sheats. Jennings had approved the teachers' examination,
but he was noncommittal concerning the Capitol site.
The campaign was launched at Miami in September. It
was Jennings' first visit to the city, and he was favorably
impressed. For over a month and a half he and the other
Democratic candidates toured the state giving speeches,
attending receptions, eating barbecue, and meeting with
voters. They traveled by boat, buggy, and train. In fifty-
three days fifty-three towns and every Florida county was
visited. Although the travel and speaking were fatiguing
Jennings enjoyed the campaign. At Crystal River he sang
with a quartet, and it was reported that he had a "fine
tenor voice. At Ocala he toured Silver Springs. In
Defuniak Springs his host told the crowd that "Florida had
had the ugliest Governor in the Union, she was now to have
one of the handsomest. " " During each speech Sherman made
it a point to recognize the ladies in the audience. At
Pensacola he remarked that "women were more interested in
good government than any other class of citizens." Re-
porters noted that on more than one occasion "nearly every
lady in the audience went up and shook" his hand. Thus,
it seemed that even though May was not on the campaign
trail with him, her presence and spirit evidently traveled
The campaign was dull and created little real news.
Jennings stuck to the issues as had been expected. He
seldom if ever mentioned his opponents. Of course, there
was no real need to. Macfarlane, however, had much to say
about the Democratic nominee. He called Jennings a Yankee,
a carpetbagger, and a "snake oil salesman." It was also
claimed that the only reason he had received the nomination
was because he was William Jennings Bryan's cousin.
Election day was November 6. Sherman, May and their
friends waited for the returns in Brooksville. There was
little doubt about the outcome. As expected, all of the
Democratic candidates won. The vote in the governor's race
was Jennings 29,251, MacFarlane 6,248, and Morton 631.
It was one of the largest Democratic victories in Florida
political history; Jennings received eighty-one percent of
the total vote. Tallahassee won reaffirmation as the state
Capitol. The Democratic party was not as fortunate nation-
ally as it had been in Florida. William Jennings Bryan,
and his running mate, Adlai Stevenson, were defeated by
McKinley and Roosevelt. Once again the "Great Commoner"
was denied the presidency. Jennings received a kind congrat-
ulatory note from his defeated cousin who urged him to be
"a Jeffersonian and an equal rightist" and ended his letter
with the despondent line, "well at least I can be known as
the cousin of a governor."
May had never been happier or prouder of her husband.
She could hardly restrain her anticipation and enthusiasm
as she began to make plans for the move to Tallahassee.
Four years of political duty and personal pleasure lay ahead.
Notes to Chapter III
A.B. Caldwell, editor, Makers of America: Florida
Edition (Atlanta, 1911), IV, p. 252.
Cadet certificates in the possession of Dorothy
Mary Bryan to May Jennings, February 28, 1920. In
the possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
"Brooksville Sun , June 27, 1952.
Louis W. Koenig, Bryan: A Political Biography of
William Jennings Bryan (New York, 1971), p. 39.
Florida Bar certificates in possession of Dorothy
James H. Jones, History of Brooksville City Govern -
ment (Brooksville, 1965), n.p.
John R. Willis to May Jennings, February, 19 20.
In possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
James H. Jones, Genealogical Record of Legal
Marriages in Hernando County for the Period, 1877-1890 ,
n.p. ~ "
Sunnylands: A Florida Monthly Magazine , III, August,
1901, p. 109.
Barbour, Florida for Tourists , p. 58.
Oliver Marvin Crosby, Florida Facts (New York,
1887) , p. 101.
Brooksville Board of Trade, A Book of Facts for Those
Seeking New Locations in the South (Chicago, 1909) , p. 6.
'Brooksville The Hernando News , July 25, 1891.
Undated and unidentified newspapers clipping.
Jennings Scrapbook No. 1, 19 01. WSJ Papers.
Gainesville Daily Sun , June 11, 1901.
Biographical sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919.
MMJ Papers, Box 19.
Minutes of the Eighth Annual Convention of the
Florida Sunday School Association (Ocala, 1889) , p. 24.
Harry C. Garwood, Stetson University and Florida
Baptists (Deland, Florida, 1962), p. 78; Jack P. Dalton,
"A History of Florida Baptists" (Ph.D. dissertation, Univer-
sity of Florida, 1952) , passim.
Brooksville Sun , November 28, 1952.
Brooksville The Hernando News , July 25, 1891.
Brooksville News Register , January 23, 1895.
Stanaback, History of Hernando County , p. 62.
Brooksville The Hernando News , August 22, 1891.
Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 130.
William T. Cash, The Story of Florida (New York,
1938), II, p. 520.
Undated and unidentified newspaper clipping. Jen-
nings Scrapbook No. 1, 19 01. WSJ Papers.
Williamson, Florida Politics in the Gilded Ag e,
passim. ' ~
Ibid . , p. 187.
V.O. Key, Jr., Southern Politics in State and Nation
(New York, 1949) , p. 82"! ~ —
Pavlovsky, "We Busted Because We Failed," p. 215.
The book, costing $1.25, was ordered from Drew and
Co., Jacksonville, June 17, 1899. WSJ Papers, Box 3.
William S. Jennings to Elkhart Carriage Comoany,
October 24, 1899. WSJ Papers, Box 3.
Pavlovsky, "We Busted Because We Failed," p. 230.
Undated and unidentified newspaper cliopina. Jen-
nings Scrapbook No. 1, 1901. WSJ Papers.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , ADril 9, 1900,
April 15, 1900, April 29, 1900, May 6, 1900.
Palatka Advertiser , April 30, 1900; Tampa Times,
May 10, 1900.
Deland Volusia County Record , May 17, 1900.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , May 27, 1900.
Tampa Tribune , May 28, 19 00.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , June 24, 1900.
Samuel Proctor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward: Florida's
Fighting Democrat (Gainesville, 1950) , p. 161.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , June 19, 1900.
Ibid . , June 22, 1900.
45 Ibid. , June 19, 1900.
Ibid . , June 20, 1900.
47 Ibid. , June 18, 1900.
David Colburn and Richard K. Scher, "Florida Guber-
natorial Politics in the Twentieth Century" (Unpublished
MS.) , p. 104.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , June 12, 1900.
Proctor, Broward , p. 163.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , June 22, 1900.
55 Ibid . , June 24, 1900.
J.D. Beggs to William S. Jennings, July 5, 1900.
WSJ Papers, Box 4.
Herbert Drane to William S. Jennings, June 25, 1900.
WSJ Papers, Box 4.
John M. Barrs, Some A.D. 1900 Democratic Platforms
in Florida (Jacksonville, 1900), n.p. "" " '
Colburn and Scher, "Florida Gubernatorial Politics,"
60 John H. Lee to William S. Jennings, June 23, 1900.
WSJ Papers, Box 4.
E.R. Russell, Brooksville As I First Knew It
(Brooksville, 1962) , n.p.
A.S. Mann to William S. Jennings, August 22, 1899.
WSJ Papers, Box 3.
Barrs, Some A.D. 1900 Democrats Platforms , n.p.
"Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , October 4, 1900.
6 ° Ibid . , September 20, 1900.
66 Ibid . , September 21, 1900.
67 Ibid . , September 5, 1900.
William Jennings Bryan to William S. Jennings,
October 15, 190 0. WSJ Papers, Box 5.
THE GOVERNOR'S LADY
As the 1901 Florida gubernatorial inauguration
approached an air of optimism and excitement permeated the
state. The people who arrived in the capital city for the
event seemed happier and more enthusiastic than past
inaugural crowds. The state was installing a man of youth,
vitality, and new ideas. Floridians, at least those con-
cerned with political matters, were satisfied. A new
century had been ushered in. The state was recovering
from the calamitous freezes of 1894, 1895, and 1898. Yellow
fever was being brought under control. Tourism was booming.
Personal income was up. The state's population was growing.
Floridians believed that their state was on the threshold
of a new era of development and progress. A confident
future lay ahead. William Sherman Jennings, only thirty-
seven at the time, and youngest governor up to that date,
seemed to personify that future for Florida.
The years that Sherman and May served as governor
and First Lady would parallel many great events and changes
in the history of America and the world. Between 1900 and
1905 the Boer War in South Africa and the Philippine cam-
paign would be concluded. Queen Victoria would pass away,
and with her Europe's and the western world's stability.
President McKinley would be assassinated, and his successor,
Theodore Roosevelt, would stamp his own personality on the
country's political thought. Marie Curie would win the
Nobel Prize, and the equations of Einstein and Planck would
turn topsy-turvy the very laws of the universe. The auto-
mobile would begin to revolutionaize transportation and the
Wright brother's "flying machine" would prove that man indeed
could fly and that most of the world would one day be only
hours or minutes away. It would be a time of science and
invention, of wonder and amazement.
These first years of the twentieth century would also
be a time of optimism and idealism, of questioning, reflec-
tion, and reform. America would begin to discover its
conscience and would try to bring to reality some of the
promises of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of
Rights. Some Americans would begin to see things as they
should be rather than as they were. The "public weal"
would become society's watchwords, and reformation and
redress would issue from every hall of government. As a
reaction to the social and economic abuses of the "gilded
age" a new ideology would develop which would accord to
government a bigger role in its citizens' lives.
During this time, reformers, North and South, would
call for the establishment of primary elections; direct
election of United States Senators; adoption of the Austral-
ian ballot; the right to initiative, referendum, and recall;
public ownership of utilities; more vigorous regulation
and curtailment of monopolies and trusts; laws regulating
the drug and food industries; regulation of female and
child labor; reform of public education, adoption of a
national income tax; abolition of the poll tax; abolish-
ment of the convict-lease system; improvement of roads
and highways; and the adoption of the commissioner-
manager type of city government. Later generations would
look back and label this period the "progressive era."
Sadly, progressivism would coincide with a movement
which would deny many American citizens their political
and civil rights. Jim Crow would emerge full flower out
of the same political cauldron which produced reforms.
The Jennings administration would be one of Florida's most
liberal governments but on the race question it would join
the conservative Southern majority. Blacks would be seen
as intellectual and moral inferiors and be deemed useful
and competent only when in the charge of whites. They would
continue to live in poverty and in ignorance, inadequately
paid and housed, uneducated, and with a shockingly high
mortality rate. For poor whites it was also a time of
economic oppression and hardship. They too were illiterate
and uncultured. Hookworm and rickets would attack their
children, and the poll tax would keep the adults away from
the ballot box.
Despite the prevailing attitude toward blacks, the
Jennings would befriend many of them, and in later years
May would be viewed by blacks as an important friend and
ally. But in 1901 white supremacy prevailed, and the
Jennings lived by the accepted code. One of Sherman's first
acts as governor would be to sign into law a bill estab-
lishing a "white's only" political primary system in
Florida. The new law would be hailed by progressives as
necessary and forward looking even though it closed the
door in the South to black involvement in the political
process. In 19 01, when Booker T. Washington dined with
President Roosevelt at the White House, Governor Jennings
remarked to the newspapers that the event only encouraged
"the Negro to demand a social equality that (could) not be
granted him," and that he "personally regretted the (White
House) matter exceedingly."
To the Jennings and other southern liberals, physi-
cal freedom for blacks would be tolerated, equality and
full civil rights would not. One historian put it succinct-
ly when he wrote, " (progressives) did not envision racial
tolerance or political equality for the Negro. The gifts
of Jeffersonian democracy were to be accorded only to the
white population." Nevertheless, the Jennings years
would provide Florida with a generally progressive govern-
ment. Sherman and May would look back with pride at their
accomplishments and years in Tallahassee.
The Jennings inaugural took place on January 8, 1901.
The family, which consisted of Sherman, May, eight year old
Bryan, Sherman's mother, Amanda, and the Manns, Austin,
Alsina, Grace, and Austin, Jr. , arrived in Tallahassee
several days prior to the inaugural. They stayed at the
elegant Leon Hotel where ten rooms had been reserved for
them. In addition to family members, hundreds of friends
and political acquaintances took, rooms at the Leon, the St.
James, and at other city hostelries.
In the week prior to the inaugural visitors began
arriving in Tallahassee. Some came to participate in the
festivities, others only to observe an exciting state event.
Each incoming train was filled to capacity. Reporters noted
that although Tallahassee had a population of less than 3,000
people, triple that number had crowded into the capital
during inaugural week. The community did its best to cope
with the situation and to accommodate the multitudes. Dances,
dinner parties, and public entertainments helped to keep the
visitors busy, but they also visited the Capitol and other
public buildings, and took carriage rides into the nearby
countryside. By inaugural eve a carnival atmosphere per-
vaded the town; "the streets (being) thronged with handsome
soldiers in bright uniforms accompanied by lovely women" all
laughing and talking animatedly.
Inaugural day was sunny and bright; it proved "de-
lightful, fair and balmy, fitting for the first great event
of the new century." An impressive military parade led
off the festivities. The procession, which formed behind
the Capitol building, commenced at 10:00 a.m., and pro-
ceeded slowly through the downtown district and back up to
the east side of the Capitol. Marching were the Pensacola
Brass Band, the Governor's Guard and military staff, fifteen
colorful military units from around the state, and Florida's
small but impressive naval militia. These units were fol-
lowed by the official party and other dignitaries riding
in open carriages. They included Governor Bloxham and
Jennings, Mrs. Bloxham and May, cabinet officers and their
wives, city officials, and a detachment of Confederate
veterans who when they drove by wearing their uniforms were
wildly applauded. The parade route was festooned with flags,
colorful bunting, and posters, and was lined with hundreds
of citizens who cheered with enthusiasm as each new unit
passed by. The local newspaper hailed the inaugural as "a
red letter day in the capital city's history," and described
the parade as "a spectacle not soon forgotten."
The oath of office was administered to the new gover-
nor on the east portico of the Capitol at high noon. May,
who was dressed in a black crepe de paris dress and a large,
colorful hat, sat on the dais near her husband. She did not
participate in the formal ceremony, but her presence was
acknowledged by all the speakers. Chief Justice Fenwick
Taylor administered the oath of office to Jennings who was
dressed in a new black broadcloth suit which May had ordered
from New York City. After presentation of the state seal
and remarks by Bloxham, Jennings delivered his inaugural
address. It was read in a strong, forceful voice. Though
written in ponderous prose and over 7,000 words in length,
the speech was uplifting and optimistic in tone. It was
more than mere rhetoric; it outlined specific problems
facing the state and offered concrete solutions. The new
governor called for reform of the state's overcrowded and
stalemated judicial system, establishment of uniform state-
wide property tax assessments, liberal support of public
education, and rigorous enforcement of the state's health
laws. The address was warmly applauded by the crowd.
At the conclusion of the formal ceremonies, the
Jennings were escorted to the governor's chambers where
they were greeted by the cabinet and other prominent state
officials. At midafternoon May returned to the Leon Hotel
to rest and to prepare for the evenings' events. Sherman,
accompanied by a retinue of politicians and state digni-
taries, walked over to Wayne Square for a barbecue and a
review of the state troops. That evening a splendid recep-
tion and ball were held at the Leon. No formal invitations
had been sent, and ordinary folk — "crackers," farmers, and
small town businessmen--were observed rubbing elbows with
high ranking state officials. The new governor was applauded
by the state's newspapers for insisting upon a "people's
Hundreds of people jammed into the Leon, which was
decorated, inside and out, with palms, bamboo, bunting and
flowers. Entertainment included vocals and piano instru-
mental by four Tallahassee ladies and dance music was
provided by Chase's Orchestra brought in especially for the
occasion from Jacksonville. A lavish buffet of "chicken
salad, turkey, Maryland biscuits, coffee, and chocolat ( sic ) "
helped to safisfy everyone's hunger. May and Sherman
received well-wishers in the hotel's east parlor until 10:00
p.m. , at which time they were formally escorted into the
ballroom, where they led off the grand march. They were a
handsome couple. Sherman wore a new tuxedo, and May, only
twenty-eight, was at the peak of her beauty. Her ballgown
elicited much excitement. A friend wrote that "school girls
studied fashion plates a solid week in order to understand
the descriptions" of it. May had spent months designing
and making the gown. It cost $150, a lot of money in 1901,
and was of "white satin crepe, embroidered in large white
chrysanthemums, with plain crepe folds trimmed in lace."
She handmade the lace for the dress including a delicate
little butterfly which she wore in her hair. Lacemaking was
one of the domestic arts she had been taught by the French
sisters at St. Joseph's. The affair, which included waltzes
and two-steps, lasted until 2:00 a.m. It was reported to
have been "one of the most magnificent balls Tallahassee
had ever witnessed. "
The Jennings settled into a busy political and social
routine in the state's capital. Since they had lived in
the city before, they were quickly accepted by the local
residents. They visited in the homes of many of the city's
oldest families, and were frequently entertained by friends
and political acquaintances. May was a hostess with extra-
ordinary flair and verve, and whenever she entertained it
usually elicited newspaper comment.
The Jennings played host to many distinguished nation-
al personalities who visited Florida. They included scien-
tists like Thomas A. Edison, and industrialists like Ransom
E. Olds, the founder of the town of Oldsmar. Even before
the 1900 election Jennings had met Theodore Roosevelt who
had presented May with an armful of red roses in repayment
for her hospitality.
During their stay in Tallahassee the Jennings occa-
sionally attended local entertainments. Monroe's Opera
House frequently booked traveling operas, roadshows, and
concerts. These events, and others like "Lesley's All Girl
Band" and "Miss Carrie Rouse, the Celebrated Whistler," were
usually greeted by an enthusiastic , over-flowing audience.
In 1901 Bryan Jennings was taken to see the circus which
was visiting the town.
For the first two years of their stay in Tallahassee
the Jennings resided at the Leon. In late 1902 they rented
the elegant Cohen mansion, on McCarthy Street, which was
described as one of Tallahassee's "handsomest and most
commodious residences." It was a practical choice by
May for Grace still lived with the family and the Manns were
frequent visitors. Bryan Jennings was reluctant to leave
the Leon, however, and years later he remembered the old
hotel with fondness, especially its great central mahogany
staircase with its "smooth-as-silk" banisters. To an
active and imaginative youngster those banisters had offered
May spent most of her time helping her husband. They
worked together as a political team. She continued to
serve as his closest confidant, and she was frequently a
participant in informal political and policy discussions.
May was deeply interested in the daily workings of her hus-
band's administration, and he in turn respected her opinions.
One contemporary called May the governor's "right hand
man." Another referred to her as Sherman's "trusted
May had a winning style with politicians for she was
intelligent and tactful as well as cheerful and gracious.
She kept abreast of both state and national political events,
and when required she could expound confidently upon current
issues. She was a good debator; she was articulate and
she did her "homework," reading extensively and talking to
people. Tallahassee had witnessed few politically astute
females, and she acquired a reputation for her political
knowledge. Her keen mind and political skills also garnered
for her many admirers and friends.
When the legislature was in session she often helped
out in the governor's office, greeting visitors, helping
keep tabs on critical legislation, and aiding the staff with
the many tasks required to keep the office running smoothly.
The governor's personal secretary was Charles H. Dickinson,
of Madison County, who had been clerk of the 1895 House,
and who had held his county delegation firmly in the Jen-
nings camp at the 19 00 state convention. Grace Mann was
her brother-in-law's chief stenographer. She had worked
earlier for him in his Brooksville law office. Her secre-
tarial skills and knowledge of legal matters was so exten-
sive that at one time Sherman attempted to get her admitted
to the Florida bar, but, the "hue and cry" from this all-
male organization reached such a crescendo that even the
state's chief executive had to relent and abandon the idea.
According to Grace's daughter she carried the disappointment
■4.U U * 19
with her for many years.
Jennings proved to be one of Florida's ablest chief
executives. He is described by historians as an activist
governor although his personal style of leadership was quiet,
dignified, and unassuming. He was the first governor to
truly challenge the Bourbons and the railroads and big
business interests which controlled the state. He is cred-
ited with launching the progressive trend that Florida
gubernatorial politics followed the first two decades of
When he came into office the state's finances and
land policies were in a tangle. The state was in deep debt,
and it had deeded away or granted more public land to rail-
roads and corporations than even itself owned. There was
a critical need for the state to reestablish its authority
and control over the public domain. Sherman Jennings ap-
parently was the right man for the job. He was honest and
sincere, and he had an unblemished personal and political
record. He was also a pragmatic, "hardnosed" fiscal con-
servative who possessed superior administrative and mana-
gerial skills. He had all the qualities needed to lead
Florida back to economic soundness.
The Jennings administration established an impressive
record. It increased state appropriations to higher educa-
tion and provided aid to certain classes of high school and
rural grade schools. It endorsed free textbooks. It
established a State Auditing Department, and was responsi-
ble for the passage of the state's first bird protection and
timber protection laws, the first pure food and drug law,
the first law preventing cruelty to children, and a law
raising the age of female consent from sixteen years of
age to eighteen years of age. It was responsible for the
enlargement and renovation of the Capitol building in 1902,
and it reorganized the state court system which resulted
in the appointment of three new Supreme Court justices and
additional circuit court judges. It reorganized the state
militia. The governor supported the establishment of the
primary system, and under his leadership Florida achieved
the enviable feat of reducing taxes while at the same time
increasing revenue. During the 1901 legislative session
two bills were passed which benefited Austin Mann and his
cronies. One extended the life of the Florida Grand Trunk
Railroad grant to 1910 and the second gave an exclusive
franchise, to operate any future shipcanal across Florida,
to the Florida Ship Canal Company. Mann was a director in
each of these enterprises. Neither company, however, ever
profited by its privileged status.
In four years Jennings reduced the state's bonded
debt by $1,032,000. By settling Florida's Indian War claims
against the national government the state was able to pay
off $132,000 in bonds and save $40,000 per year in interest,
as well as receive a large cash settlement from Washington.
Revenues from licenses, stamps, and minor taxes were in-
creased. By reforming the state convict-lease system an
additional $500,000 was brought into the treasury. During
his tenure Jennings increased the amount of revenue from the
sale of swamp and overflow lands by 100 percent, but he also
vetoed numerous unnecessary appropriation bills. By 1905
the treasury balance had been increased from $32,805 to
almost $500,000, and the bonded debt had been reduced forty
percent. More importantly the general tax rate was reduced
from three mills to just one-half mill. All this occurred
while funding for education, state institutions, internal
improvements, and pensions was increased. It was a truly
remarkable fiscal record and was enthusiastically endorsed
by Florida's citizens.
By far the greatest accomplishment and legacy of the
Jennings administration was its land policy. For over twenty-
five years public lands, originally designated for drainage
and reclamation purposes, had been routinely granted to
railroads and corporations as a subsidy. Of the 564 rail-
roads receiving charters less than one-half ever built roads.
By 1901 this misguided giveaway policy had resulted in the
depletion of the public domain and in the curious situation
of railroads and corporations holding grants to more land
than the state owned. Jennings and other progressives
argued that the lands belonged to the people, and they were
outraged by the scandalous practice. The state's most
prized resource had been squandered. The governor felt
strongly that such a policy could be legally reversed for
it was subverting the intent of the Internal Improvement
Act of 1855, which had reserved the lands for the people
and for reclamation and drainage.
For two years Jennings and his staff investigated,
researched, studied, and prepared legal briefs on the status
of the public lands. The work was painstaking and tedious;
few reports and records were extant. But Jennings perse-
vered for he saw the administration of the state's lands
as "one of the greatest trusts" he had been vested with.
He ordered a thorough search of all state offices and ar-
chives and directed that minutes, records, and laws pertinent
to the subject be published and put into the public record.
In the course of these investigations he found that a vast
tract of the Everglades had never been patented. With the
help of Florida's congressional delegation and by personally
pursuing the matter in Washington, the state received a
patent to 2,862,080 acres of South Florida land. The rail-
roads, citing earlier state grants to them, immediately
laid claim to this acreage but the governor had other plans
In his 1903 message to the legislature Jennings
unveiled an elaborate drainage and reclamation plan for the
Everglades. The idea was not original but he was the first
political leader to try to do something about the matter.
The newly patented lands were surveyed and engineering
studies were begun. To validate the feasibility of such an
ambitious undertaking Jennings produced tables, charts,
graphs, expert opinions, and what he later called "the
famous map." About this document, he wrote "it served a
great purpose (for) it brought to the attention of the
public the whole situation of the lands and incited keen
interest." Napoleon Broward, Sherman's successor, was to
make the map even more well known during his own guberna-
torial campaign of 1904.
The legislature approved Jennings' plan, but the
actual work of drainage and reclamation was not to begin
until the year after he left office. Few projects before
or since have captured the imagination of Floridians as
did the Everglades drainage and reclamation program. During
the Jennings administration not one acre of public lands was
deeded to any corporation. As a consequence of this, and
because of opposition to drainage, the railroads and cor-
porations instituted numerous suits against the state. For
years these legal battles threatened to slow down and even
halt the reclamation work. Jennings acted as counsel for
the state in many of these suits. Eventually Florida's
ownership of the lands and its right to drain, reclaim, and
tax them was upheld in the courts.
The high stakes involved in the reclamation of the
Everglades made it a highly controversial project. Most
people viewed it as a wise undertaking which would conserve
and make productive a hitherto useless area. To those now
in the ecologically-minded 19 80s the plan appears naive and
misguided, but in 1903 it was thought that only man's
ingenuity prevented a useless swamp from becoming a "garden
of eden." With only a few canals here, and a dike or two
there, the Everglades could be made lush and green. The
longterm detrimental consequences of the project on the land,
the animals, or the Indians were never fully contemplated.
Few questioned the wisdom of the project. Floridians still
live with both the positive and negative results of the
great dream of V7illiam Sherman Jennings and Napoleon Bona-
May stood firmly behind her husband and shared his
plans for the Everglades. She too visualized a land of
"milk and honey" springing out of the swampy vastness of
South Florida. For years she had heard from her father of
the fortunes and benefits that would accrue from the drain-
age of the swamplands. As early as 1885 Austin Mann had
toured South Florida in search of a route for a cross-state
canal. May had heard him describe the paradise that lay
below Kissimmee, but it would be years before she would see
it for herself. Reclamation and conservation of the Ever-
glades was an issue that was to burn deep in her heart and
mind, until she became personally involved in the project.
Her natural affinity for nature and for tropical Florida
turned that involvement into a lifetime commitment.
Despite its many accomplishments the Jennings admin-
istration was not without its mistakes or its harrowing
incidents. Strangely, most occurred during the first few
months that Sherman and May were in Tallahassee. One of his
first acts as governor was to investigate and renegotiate the
state's convict-lease contracts. The convict-lease system
was a deplorable institution which many progressives sought
to abolish. But after thorough study Jennings became con-
vinced that it was the most practical solution available,
for it meant that the state would not have to support a
large and costly penal system. After a study of the prob-
lems of convict-lease Jennings became convinced that the
system's cruel abuses could be eliminated. Although his
supervisor of convicts wrote that the prisoners were in the
main "healthy and cheerful," others contradicted this
assertion. " Jennings also felt that any profits from the
system belonged to the state.
Under his leadership, the cabinet, through a series
of ploys and deft political maneuvers, renegotiated a more
lucrative contract. It brought to the treasury $148,000
per year for 97 5 convicts, or a more than sevenfold increase
over the previous amount received. The new contract was
hailed as a great victory and the governor as one who had
"outfoxed" the state's omnipotent phosphate companies. Not
everyone viewed it as a victory, however, for progressives
were disappointed that an entirely new penal system had not
been established. The whole episode is examined by Gordon
Carper in his study of the Florida convict-lease system.
In a chapter entitled "Crime for Profit" he cautiously
commends Governor Jennings' actions, but states that "unfor-
tunately he achieved economy at the expense of the convicts.'
He also notes that the inhumane practices of the system
continued, despite the good intentions of the Jennings
Probably the most controversial event of Jennings'
term was the passage of the "Flagler Divorce Bill." Henry
Flagler's second wife was confined to a New York insane
asylum. Flagler tolerated the situation for some years
until 19 00. Determined to marry Mary Kenan, a young and
vivacious North Carolina belle with whom he had fallen in
love, he decided to do something about the matter. First
he transferred his legal residence from New York to Florida.
Then he got supporters in the 1901 legislature to introduce
a bill making incurable insanity grounds for divorce. The
bill caused an immediate sensation across the state.
Politicians, clergymen, and newspapers took up sides.
Charges and countercharges were exchanged. There were
rumors that Flagler had paid off the legislature. Even
Jennings was said to be in Flagler's pocket. The state's
Baptists were enraged and issued a call-to-arms . The
governor, a trustee of Stetson University and Florida's
most prominent Baptist, was bitterly criticized by pulpit
and press for supporting and signing the bill. It was
charged that Flagler had used his great wealth in the 19 00
state convention to secure the nomination for Jennings in
return for Sherman's support of the bill. It was a serious
charge. That Jennings knew Flagler was well known, but
there is no evidence to substantiate these contentions.
The question remains, however, as to why the governor, a
staunch Baptist churchman, supported such an unpopular and
morally controversial law. Flagler got his divorce, the
bill was later repealed, and the governor suffered the
consequences for his actions. The affair made enemies for
him; his Baptist brethren remembered his involvement the
next time he ran for public office.
On May 3, 19 01, the greatest conflagration ever to
strike a Florida city occurred when a large section of
Jacksonville, the state's largest city, burned to the
ground. When news of the calamity reached Tallahassee the
governor and his staff quickly responded. Martial law was
declared, and by afternoon of that same day a special train
with state troops, newsmen, officials, and Jacksonville's
legislative delegation aboard was dispatched to the still
burning city. More than 100 blocks of the city's business
and residential area was gutted. Some 2,368 buildings had
been destroyed, and thousands of citizens were homeless.
May Jennings remembered the tragedy with "sadness and
recalled the soup kitchens and emergency establishments"
that were hastily erected.
The governor visited Jacksonville to inspect the
damage and review the troops. His quick response to the
emergency was noted but some criticized the small amount
of financial aid he had sent to the city. Damage had
exceeded $15,000,000; state aid totaled only $20,000. Hun-
dreds of thousands of dollars were donated to the city by
people throughout the United States.
On December 17, 19 03, the governor, while working
quietly in his office, narrowly escaped a potential assassin's
attack. An escaped inmate from a Georgia asylum had some-
how traveled to Tallahassee, and entered the Capitol build-
ing undetected. Suddenly he appeared in the governor's
suite screaming that he needed protection from pursuing
persecutors. Growing wild with rage he made a dash for
the governor, but secretary Dickinson was able to close the
door to the inner office, and he wrestled the distraught
man to the floor while others summoned help. Jennings was
shaken but unharmed.
The Jennings spent four busy years in Tallahassee.
When the legislature was not in session activities in the
capital city slowed down considerably. Dickinson once
wrote at one of those times that, "everything is as dull
as can be here." Gubernatorial duties in those years
were cyclical and limited, Jennings concentrated on non-
critical state business and on his own law practice during
the months that the legislature was not in session. May,
whose energy seemed limitless, remained active and involved
however sluggish life in Tallahassee became. There was much
to demand her attention, particularly Bryan, who was attend-
ing Miss Ame's private academy. May chaired a committee
to raise money for a new sanctuary for the Baptist church.
There was also her own personal and official correspondence,
and activities connected with her duties as First Lady.
There was upkeep of the rented mansion, supervision of the
Brooksville homestead, as well as daily shopping, sewing,
gardening, and cooking. There was also her own wardrobe
which required attention. She always wore stylish clothes.
She had a favorite dressmaker who resided in St. Augustine
and served the affluent winter tourists. A milliner by
trade, this lady kept May posted about the latest styles.
She was also a friend and offered what she called "pearls
of wisdom." Once she wrote the first lady: "hats are like
husbands, they need to be selected with great care." " May
loved the woman dearly and often lent her money to help her
through slack periods in dressmaking.
May had to oversee the governor's official entertain-
ing which was considerable during the Jennings years. She
was responsible for several tours de force in entertaining
which garnered statewide comment. The first was an elaborate
dinner party which the Jennings gave in 19 01 in honor of
the cabinet, and which established her reputation in Talla-
hassee as a gracious and creative hostess. The Daily
Capitol reported that the dinner, given at the Leon and
attended by seventeen people, was the "first time in the
history of the capital that the cabinet had been so feted."
The paper called it "one of the most enjoyable social
functions ever given in Tallahassee, a notable feature (was)
the absence of formality, and the atmosphere of cordiality
and geniality which the accomplished hostess so success-
fully imparted to the occasion."
Even the food served at the dinner was noteworthy;
it too made the front page of the newspaper. The elaborate
menu included, "Apalachicola oysters, creme of fowl, consomme
pretiniere, celery and olives, broiled lake trout in drawn
butter sauce, saddle of venison with mushrooms, french peas,
asparagus tips, roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry
sauce, creamed potatoes, chicken salad, vanilla ice cream,
assorted cakes, fruit, cheese, crackers, mixed nuts, and
coffee." ~ The dinner proved a gastronomic delight; people
talked about it for weeks.
On their twelfth wedding anniversary in 1903, the
Jennings gave a reception in honor of the legislature, that
was then in session. The following day's newspaper head-
lines noted, "Governor's Reception a Brilliant Function-
Elite of Tallahassee in Attendance. " Over 500 people
attended, and several times during the evening there was
"a jam of carriages" in front of the Jennings' residence.
The mansion was beautifully decorated: "The veranda was
ablaze with electric lights in the national colors of red,
white and blue and was screened in with national flags . . .
palms and yellow flowers occupied places in every nook
and corner of the house and vines entwined around windows,
arches and doorways." Each room of the house was deco-
rated in a different color. The governor's study, which
served as the ice cream parlor, was festooned in pink! A
local orchestra provided music, and each guest was present-
ed with a favor, a miniature American flag, upon his
departure. The news reporter commented upon the handsome
gowns worn by May and Grace and stated that "there was abso-
lutely no formality about the function, and all guests spent
a most delightful time."
Not all of the Jennings' entertainments were elab-
orate. The family also enjoyed picnics and playing ping-
pong, and card games such as crazy eights and hearts. They
often read aloud to one another, and joined in parlor
"sing alongs." May enjoyed music and was proud of her
singing ability. Music played an important role in the
Once a week May and Bryan went buggy riding. They
often rode with Sarah Lamar, wife of the attorney general,
or with Colonel C.W. Walker, a family friend. When riding
alone they toured the city and countryside in a "victoria
and span" drawn by white horses. May is remembered on these
rides as always being modishly dressed and sporting a para-
The records do not show that May participated in
formal clubwork while living in Tallahassee, although she
may have helped organize the local woman's club, for the
Tallahassee Improvement Association was established shortly-
after the Jennings arrived in the city in 19 01. Organized
by local women, it wanted to beautify the community by
cleaning up the parks, sidewalks, and streets. By 1903, its
successor, the Tallahassee Woman's Club, had become involved
in more important civic matters. It wanted the state to
build or purchase a home for the governor and his family,
and it became an outspoken opponent of the local educational
establishment. It endorsed the creation of a graded high
school with a modern and comprehensive curricula, to replace
Leon Academy, which had served the town for over a genera-
tion. The local paper wryly noted that, "there is a woman's
club in Tallahassee, and judging by the way in which they
haul the local school board over the coals the club doesn't
exist merely for the purpose of discussing social events
and fashions." It later added that "the ladies are
aroused (but) the school board ignores them. " Their per-
sistence, however, eventually won out and Tallahassee's
school system was reformed.
Apparently May considered it impolitic to belong to
such an outspoken organization, and she took no public
stand on issues. Judged by her later battles, however,
she probably supported the ladies' goals. She did oversee
a special beautif ication project of her own. The renovation
and improvement of the Capitol was completed late in 1902.
From January until April the following year she supervised
the landscaping of the building's grounds. Rye grass was
sown, paths marked out, and flowering shrubs and trees
planted in time for the legislative session. Some of the
local women aided in the work. She also helped decorate
the Capitol for the dedication in December. At that func-
tion a banquet was served in the House chamber, while a ball
was held in the Senate chamber. May also decorated the
governor's new offices. The suite included a reception room,
secretary's office, and the governor's office. There were
new tables, settees, chairs, bookcases, desks, file cabinets,
umbrella racks, wardrobes, and nine brass cuspidors. The
furniture was mahogany and massive. The governor's rolltop
desk was sixteen feet long.
The Jennings traveled extensively but tried to
spend their holidays in Brooksville. In February 1901 they
made an official trip to Pensacola to participate in Mardi
Gras festivities which coincided with a visit by the United
States Navy's North Atlantic Squadron. There were dinners,
a parade, and a ball held in honor of the visitors. While
the governor conferred with Admiral N.H. Farquahar and
Secretary of the Navy John D. Long about Florida's naval
defenses, May was feted at the home of Mrs. William D.
Chipley. This pattern was to be repeated many times. Whether
traveling alone or with her husband, May usually
received special attention from the local ladies. Thus
she was able, in four years, to meet most of the prominent
women in Florida and to build-up a network of statewide
friendships which would prove helpful to her future work.
The Jennings received many invitations to attend
state, regional, and national meetings. While most of them
had to be refused, they did manage to attend a large number
of functions. Except in rare cases, May almost always
traveled with her husband. The events the Jennings attend-
ed revealed their wide range of interests: the launching
of the U.S.S. Florida at Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1901;
the 1901 Tammany Society's July 4th lecture series in New
York City; Florida Bar Association conventions; Florida
Press Association conventions; Florida State Horticultural
Society meetings; the annual Florida Baptist convention; the
1902 California State Fair in San Francisco; the Southern
Turpentine Association convention; Florida Education Asso-
ciation convention; Florida State Fair (May served on the
Fair's woman's board); St. Louis World's Fair; and the
National Good Roads Association convention in New York. In
1904 Jennings and his father-in-law attended the second
official automobile races on the beach at Daytona. The
Governor spoke at the Good Roads Convention which was held
in conjunction with the races. Austin, who had attended the
first race in 1903, was an officer in both the Good Roads
organization and the Florida East Coast Automobile Associa-
tion, which sponsored the races. Returning from the event
the two stopped in St. Augustine and had their picture
In addition to these travels the Jennings attended
scores of Democratic party functions, political rallies,
high school and college commencement exercises, and various
minor civic events. The state legislature was still meeting
only once every two years and the governor's duties were
such that in 19 01 he could travel, conduct private business,
lead an active social life, and still have time to carry on
his responsibilities as chief executive. May enjoyed
traveling, and later in her statewide clubwork she would
travel thousands of miles in the performance of official
duties. Extensive traveling was a natural part of her life
style; "living out of a suitcase" never seemed to bother
Two trips the Jennings took were especially important
and interesting. In September 1901 they traveled by train
with a number of Floridians to the Pan-American Exhibition
in Buffalo, New York. The fair which had received world
wide publicity featured exhibits from all the states and
countries in the Western hemisphere. It was located on
a 350-acre site outside the city. The Jennings had come
to participate in "Florida day" activities and to officially
open the Florida exhibit, which was housed in a booth built
to resemble a palmetto hut having beams and girders draped
with Spanish moss.
The gaiety of the event was dampened, for in a house
near the fairgrounds, President McKinley lay dying, the
victim of an assassin's bullet. The President had been
shot while touring the fair only a few days prior to the
Jennings arrival. McKinley ' s deteriorating condition had
thrown the country into a state of melancholy and had cast
a pall over the Exhibition. Despite the somberness of the
occasion, the Jennings paid their respects at the president's
residence, and then were accorded the honor of being shown
the fairgrounds in a "horseless carriage," a privilege
reserved for only the most distinguished guests.
In the spring of 19 02 the Jennings were among the
official party at ceremonies in Havana at which Cuban inde-
pendence was formally recognized. Since the end of the
Spanish- American War the island had been under the juris-
diction of the United States. In 1902 that relationship
ended, and Cuba was declared a free republic. The geographic
proximity of Florida and Cuba and the fact that there had
been close ties for centuries was a major reason why
Florida's chief executive was chosen to represent the United
States at the ceremonies. In addition to Sherman, May,
their son Bryan, Grace, and a number of Washington digni-
taries, the official party also included William Jennings
Bryan, who traveled as a correspondent for the news magazine,
Colliers' Weekly . The visitors were feted to a tour of the
city, an elaborate banquet, a fancy dress ball, a jai alai
game, a fireworks display, and a yacht club breakfast. On
May 20, 19 02, at an impressive ceremony at Moro Castle,
with guns saluting, soldiers standing at attention, and a
band playing anthems, the forty-five star American flag was
lowered and the new flag of Cuba was raised. The American
flag was presented to May. She cherished it for many years.
The Jennings once received an invitation from Profes-
sor E. Warren Clark, who lived outside of Tallahassee on
the old Croom plantation, Casa de Laga. The property occu-
pied a thousand acres on a bend along the shoreline of Lake
Jackson. Clark had turned it into a successful dairy farm
and had renamed the place Shidzuoka. Clark was respected
but was considered a bit eccentric. He was described as a
man who "farmed with imagination and whose personality
added color to life along the west shore of Lake Jackson."
A neighbor remembered that "the bespectacled Professor
frequently peddled his bike along old Bainbridge Road and
that he occasionally held elaborate celebrations at Shid-
zouka." Two of these celebrations involved the Jennings.
The first was an elegant garden party on the plantation's
spacious lawn beneath a grove of stately oak trees, held in
honor of Sherman's inauguration. The Jennings and cabinet
Professor Clark was a kind-hearted man and was dedi-
cated to the advancement of blacks. Periodically he held
a day-long entertainment for Leon County's ex-slaves, to
celebrate May 20th, Florida's Emancipation day. 47 Clark,
who came from a New England background, did not endear him-
self to Leon County whites by holding these celebrations,
but they tolerated them. The professor meant well and felt
that he was helping the blacks. They, in turn, enjoyed
his parties and looked forward to them with anticipation.
Professor Clark expressed the accepted liberal attitude of
the day. He viewed the former slaves as children who needed
whites to protect them, educate them, and save their souls.
Later his brand of liberalism would seem patently condes-
cending, patronizing, and offensive, but in 1901 it repre-
sented the most enlightened attitude that white liberals
could bring to the racial question.
In 19 01 he invited Governor and Mrs. Jennings to his
next celebration. He wrote, "Next Monday is Emancipation
Day. Sixteen years or more ago I gave a grand entertain-
ment here at Lake Jackson for the Colored People, nearly a
thousand of them came, and I invited Governor Perry out here
to spend the night and address the Colored People, which he
did. Could you drive out? After a five minute address to
your 'colored constituents' we could show you immense
stereocopticon views. This time our subject is 'Types of
Colored Races of the World. ' The illustrations will include
the native Hawaiians, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Singa-
lese, Hindoos, Brahmins, Mohammedans, ancient Egyptians, and
Ethiopians ... a dense Black Crowd would listen to you and
such a little visit would do a great deal of good." The
professor, who apparently thought all non-whites were Negroes,
concluded his invitation with the information that he was
at that very minute writing a new book entitled "Uncle
Tom's Cabin Up to Date"!
Professor Clark held his May 20th celebration as
planned. Over 1,000 blacks attended, many traveling long
distances to get to the plantation. Almost all were dressed
in their best Sunday attire. There was food, hymn singing,
lectures, "music by phonograph" and the much anticipated
stereocopticon show of "types of colored races." Part of
the day's entertainment was described by the local news-
paper. It seems that "Dr. Wa-hoo-chee, an Indian lecturer
and exhibiter, assisted Professor Clark. . . . Wa-hoo-chee
whose Indian ancestors once roamed over (Florida's) 'happy
hunting grounds' was photographed with his squaw and his
dog in full Indian war costume, with tomahawk in one hand
and open Bible in the other. . . . When the Indian presented
his passion play to the colored people the scene of Lazarus
arising from the dead and Christ himself unshrouding his
risen body affected the emotional nature of the colored
people so that some of them cried out as if Christ were
actually before them. " It is not known if the Jennings
accepted Clark's invitation and attended the celebration.
In 1903 Sherman began to give serious thought to his
political future. For over a year he had assessed the
feasibility of running for a higher office. In 1902 there
had been rumors that he would become a "dark horse" candi-
date for vice-president on the national Democratic ticket.
There was also speculation that he would run for Congress.
The voters waited for an announcement. Finally in August
1903, he declared his intentions; he would enter the 1904
primary and seek a seat in the United States Senate. To
his supporters his gubernatorial record made him an unbeat-
able candidate. More astute observers, however, were not so
optimistic. He had waited too long to announce his candi-
dacy, and he would be running against a popular and power-
Senator James P. Taliaferro would be a formidable
opponent. He was a conservative Democrat who came from a
wealthy Jacksonville family. In addition John N.C. Stockton,
also from Duval County, and a protege of Napoleon Broward,
was a candidate. By waiting so long to declare his inten-
tions Jennings' campaign lost momentum before it ever really
got started. From the beginning of the race he was the
Although his record as governor was impressive and
he was well-liked by most Floridians, he had angered many
in the party by some of his decisions as governor. Also,
his manner was quiet and reserved. Many felt that he lacked
the charisma and personality required to win a wide-open
primary race. To the voters he did not appear to have the
strong temperament or the toughness that Floridians thought
their senator should have. In addition he was faced with
the added burden of having to justify his candidacy to his
follow Democrats. Why, they asked, did he dilute the
liberal challenge to Taliaferro by making the primary a
three-way race? Wasn't Stockton as much a liberal as he?
Indeed, one historian has stated that even "the voters
were inclined to regard Stockton as a more sincere liberal
The three candidates attended the state Democratic
convention at Punta Gorda, where a large rally was held to
kick off the campaign. Each was called upon to speak.
Jennings supporters must have realized their candidate was
in trouble when it was reported that, "The Governor has not
yet forsaken free silver, and his bold declaration of con-
tinued affiliation with a dead issue was not unnoticed by
his hearers (who) regard (him) as a third party. " From
that time onward the Jennings campaign seemed to go from
bad to worse. The primary proved to be bitter and vitriolic.
Charges, counter-charges, and mud-slinging became the rule
rather than the exception. At times Jennings seemed over-
whelmed by the bitter attacks, but he made a gallant effort
to bypass personalities and campaign on the issues.
May worked hard to reverse the trend. Again she
was in charge of the campaign paperwork. She supervised
a statewide mailing and publicity operation, and she
organized the Governor's speaking tour. Her formal title
was "Chairman of the Jennings' Campaign Committee on Public-
lty and Promotion." She was also president of the Talla-
hassee Jennings club. Despite her efforts and a valiant
speaking tour in which Sherman tried to present himself as
a forceful, dynamic leader, he and May knew that they were
fighting an "uphill battle." The primary election returns
showed just how difficult the battle had been. Sherman
trailed far behind both of the other candidates and was
eliminated from the race. May was disappointed by her hus-
band's defeat but remained smiling and spirited in her
public appearances. Sherman was more philosophical about
his defeat, and seemed almost relieved that the ordeal was
behind him. He threw his support to Broward, who was run-
ning for governor, and then set about making plans for the
The Jennings faced several options. They could
return to Brooksville where Sherman would resume his law
practice. He could try for another public office, or he
could accept one of the offers of employment that v/ere
being tendered to him. In November 19 04 the Governor
made his decision. He had received a lucrative offer which
he felt he could not refuse. A new financial institution,
purported to be the state's largest, was being formed and
he had been offered a vice-presidency of it and a handsome
retainer to act as the firm's legal counsel. Sherman and
May would move to Jacksonville. For May the move was to
prove fortunate for it would place her in the state's larg-
est city, in the best location for her to pursue her
avocations of club and civic work. May would make her mark
Notes to Chapter IV
Unidentified newspaper clipping, October 18, 1901.
WSJ Papers, Box 9.
Proctor, Broward , p. 174.
The Weekly Tallahassean , January 10, 1901.
Ibid . , January 17, 1901.
Lake City Citizen-Reporter , January 11, 1901.
7 . .
The handwritten original copy of the address is in
the possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
The Weekly Tallahassean , January 10, 1901.
Norton Kealthly to William S. Jennings, February 4,
1901. WSJ Papers, Box 8.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , July 10, 1955.
The Weekly Tallahassean , January 10, 19 01.
13 Ibid. , October 25, 1901.
Ibid . , August 1, 1902.
Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings, July 27,
1978. Penney Farms, Florida.
Blackman, The Women of Florida , II, p. 92.
Eustis Lake Region , September 5, 1901.
Florida Legislative Directory 1903 (Tallahassee,
1903) , p. 43.
Elizabeth Bell Hightower to author, July 2, 197 8.
For an assessment of William S. Jennings' guberna-
torial abilities see Colburn and Scher, "Florida Gubernatorial
Politics," unpublished MS. In possession of authors, Uni-
versity of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
For an overview of the public land policies see
J.E. Dovell, "The Railroads and the Public Lands of Florida,
1879-1905," Florida Historical Quarterly , XXXIV, January
1956, pp. 236-258.
William S. Jennings, "Florida's Public Lands,"
Legislative Bluebook , 1917, p. 50.
23 Ibid . , p. 54.
R.F. Rogers to William S. Jennings, April 1901.
WSJ Papers, Box 8.
Gordon N. Carper, "The Convict-Lease System in
Florida, 1866-1923" (Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State
University, 1964), p. 186.
Photographs of Jennings and Flagler together are in
possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
Benjamin Harrison, Acres of Ashes (Jacksonville,
1901) , passim.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , July 10, 1955.
New York American , December 18, 1902.
C.H. Dickinson to William S. Jennings, June 11,
1901. WSJ Papers, Box 9.
Mary Wakefield to May Jennings, September, 19 01.
MMJ Papers, Box 1.
The Daily Capital , December 5, 1901.
34 Ibid . , May 13, 1903.
The Weekly Tallahassean , July 17, 1903.
Ibid. , August 7, 1903.
Alice Strickland, "Florida's Golden Age of Racing,"
Florida Historical Quarterly, XXXXV, January, 1967, p. 259.
Florida School Exponent , v. VIII, No. 4, December
1900, p. 6.
Daytona Gazette-News, June 22, 1901.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , September 13,
El Figaro, XVIII, June, 1902.
The Moro Castle flag is in the possession of
Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
Clifton Paisley, From Cotton to Quail: An Agricul -
tural Chronicle of Leon County, Florida, 1860-1967 (Gaines-
ville, 1968) , p. 75. "
Ibid . , p. 76.
For a description of May 20th Emancipation Day
celebrations see Susan Bradford Eppes, The Negro of the Old
South (Chicago, 1925), p. 115.
E. Warren Clark to William S. Jennings, May, 19 01.
WSJ Papers, Box 9.
The Weekly Tallahassean , May 23, 1901.
Proctor, Broward , p. 189.
Unidentified newspaper clipping, August 25, 1903.
Jennings Scrapbook No. 2, WSJ Papers.
Letterhead on Campaign stationery, November, 1903.
WSJ Papers, Box 16.
JACKSONVILLE, THE FEDERATION,
AND OTHER THINGS
The move to Jacksonville proved the right decision
for the Jennings family. In 1905 the city's population was
nearly 40,000. As the state's industrial and financial
capital it had an active civic and social life and a good
school system. Bryan Jennings would graduate from Duval
High School and attend Stetson University where he would
acquire a law degree. Grace Mann continued to live with
the Jennings. She attended Wesleyan College in Macon,
Georgia, and in 1910 married John M. Bell, a Jacksonville
The first years in Jacksonville Governor Jennings
solidified the family's finances. He became a vice-
president of the Florida Bank and Trust. He bought stock
in the Barnes- Jessup Naval Stores Company, and he acquired
extensive real estate holdings. He developed a law prac-
tice which became so large that eventually he took on Bryan,
his son, and Benjamin F. Brass, as junior partners. The
Jennings firm was located in the Dyal-Upchurch building on
The first two years in the city the Jennings lived
in rented homes, including the Meunart House at 12 9 East
7th Street. In 1907 the family moved into their own house
which they built on the corner of Main and Seventh streets
in Springfield, which lay north of Hogan ' s Creek and which
contained some of the city's most elegant residences. When
the Jennings home was built the area was out in the country
beyond the city limits. The trolley, which ran down tracks
in the center of a landscaped esplanade on Main street, made
a U-turn near the Jennings home, which at the time was the
end of the line.
The Jennings house was one of the largest in north
Jacksonville. Two-story and frame, it cost $6,000 to
buxld--an impressive sum in 19 07. It had twelve rooms
including eight upstairs bedrooms. On the first floor there
were a large entrance hall, parlor, dining room, and a
kitchen. The house had "broad airy porches on both the
first and second floors, front and rear." There was a
large stable at the rear of the property which was later
converted into a garage. Inside, the house had grain edge
pine flooring, curley pine doors, chandeliers, leaded glass
windows, and a mahogany staircase. The furniture--oak,
ebony, and mahogany — was large, in the style of the time.
There was a piano in the parlor and the governor's desk, a
magnificent roll-top affair of burl and mahogany, was promi-
nently displayed. The desk, which had been a parting gift
from his cabinet, carried a brass placque with their names
and the dates of the Jennings administration. Linens
used in the house were all hand embroidered by May and
carried the family monogram.
Austin Mann wrote his daughter when she moved into
her new home that, "God has sure been good to you." Provi-
dence soon blessed Mann also for he too built a new home.
This house, even larger than his daughter's, was an elegant
structure which he named "Olivewood. " It was located on
the northwest corner of Silver and Eleventh streets only a
few blocks from the Jennings home.
Soon after moving into her new home May planted
trees, flowers, and gardens. The grounds, while not spa-
cious, were tastefully landscaped. Gardening was one of
May Jennings' favorite activities. Her appreciation of the
outdoors and the beauties of nature continued throughout
her life. She was especially fond of flowers such as roses,
hollyhocks, snapdragons, larkspurs, and sweetpeas. Her
garden also contained a bed of prize-winning lilies, which
elicited much comment from those who visited the house.
Over the years May was to become a skilled amateur horticul-
turist and spent time ordering seeds and plants and writing
friends and experts to exchange information about gardening
and farming. When the house was demolished decades later
several of the palm trees which she had planted in 1907, and
which had grown very tall, were transplanted to the grounds
of Jacksonville's city hall. In its early years the
Jennings house also had a small chicken yard on the premises.
At one time May ordered an incubator to facilitate the
raising of fowl. It was a novel device, and friends and
neighbors made special visits to view it in operation.
Occasionally she raised pigeons and doves for their eggs,
which she considered a delicacy. A cow was kept for its
Sometimes May's attachment and loyalty to her
beloved state of Florida manifested itself in curious and
humorous ways. Shortly before the family moved into their
new home she chose as the house's box number 1845. The
number was a sentimental choice because it was the date of
Florida's entry into the Union as a state. The number
worked fine as long as the Jennings home was out in the
country, but the Springfield area grew rapidly, and even-
tually the house number caused a monumental headache for
the United States Postal Service. A conflict was inevita-
ble for May was determined to keep her house number. After
threats, cajolings, and finally negotiations the dilemma
was solved. Despite the consternation of the postal
service and the inconvenience the illogical number caused
her neighbors, May retained the address of 1845 Main Street,
and so it remained until her death.
Because of the size of the house and because of the
family's social position the Jennings always had servants.
There was a laundress who had worked for them in Tallahassee
and who had moved to Jacksonville with the family. The
kitchen maid was a black, named Lizzie Logan, who worked
for the Jennings many years. There was also a black houseman,
Benny, who served as handyman, gardener, and chauffeur. He
too was employed by the family for many years. May was
kind to her servants, but she always "expected from them
a full day's work for a full day's wages."
After settling in Jacksonville the Jennings quickly
immersed themselves in the city's civic life. Because they
preferred activities which concerned philanthropic, civic,
or political matters, rather than mere social fraterniza-
tion, they never belonged to exclusive social organizations
like the country club or the Seminole and Yacht clubs.
Neither did they indulge in that faddish social activity,
whist playing (the card game bridge) , which was then all
the rage in Jacksonville. Their circle of friends included
prominent local, state and national business and political
leaders. As in Tallahassee, May gained a reputation as a
hostess with exceptional abilities. The local paper pre-
dicted before one of her parties that "All the guests will
be talented, and an artists' evening will be enjoyed. That
the evening will be a success, and every moment will be full
of pleasure, goes without saying since Mrs. Jennings is the
hostess." In addition to hospitality with her husband
she frequently entertained her own friends, and for many
years she played host to eminent clubwomen from Florida and
the nation who happened to pass through the city. It was
not uncommon for the Jennings to have a dozen or more over-
night houseguests in the span of one month's time.
Governor Jennings never again held elective office,
but he stayed active in politics and continued to speak out
on major issues. In 19 08 he and Austin Mann, who at that
time held high office in the state and national Good Roads
association, were delegates to the national Democratic con-
vention in Denver. That same year Jennings served as his
cousin's southern campaign manager in William Jennings
Bryan's third try for the presidency. In 1911 Jennings
served on a special commission which studied Florida's out-
moded tax system. He supported the Democratic candidates —
Albert W. Gilchrist and Park Trammell — in the 1908 and 1912
gubernatorial races, and in 1916 he backed William V. Knott
in his contest against Sidney J. Catts.
Jennings' prime interest until his death was the
great Everglades drainage project. In 19 05 Governor Broward
appointed him counsel to the trustees of the Internal
Improvement Fund, a position he held almost five years. If
Broward was the driving force and the "mouthpiece" of the
vast reclamation project, then Jennings was its architect
and legal "brains." It was because of his abilities that
the legal ambiguities and threats to the project were
untangled. Almost singlehandedly he was to see that all of
the challenges against it were met and successfully resolved
in the courts. He authored important enabling legislation,
and he drafted the bills which financed the undertaking.
The work was time-consuming and arduous, although he received
Broward's gratitude and a $5,00 yearly salary from the
state for his services. VIork on the Everglades project
embroiled Jennings in several controversies. In 1906 he
sued the Jasper News for slander because of libelous
editorials it published concerning his efforts on behalf of
drainage. He won the case. In 1907 he was involved in
an altercation with Congressman Frank Clark, in which he
struck the politician over the head with a hickory cane.
The flap was caused by remarks Clark made about Jennings
and the so-called profits Jennings had received from his
work for the state. Working on behalf of the misunderstood
reclamation program was not easy and Jennings and Broward
were frequent targets of ambitious politicians and news-
papers which printed sensational but often incorrect news
In 1909 Jennings resigned his post as counsel to the
Trustees, but he shortly became attorney for the State
Board of Drainage Commissioners. Again he defended the
state's actions in the courts. Through the years the faith
of Sherman and May in the reclamation project never diminish-
ed. Jennings became a nationally recognized authority on
the dual subjects of canals and drainage and gave numerous
speeches around the country. May, also, "talked up" the
drainage project whenever she could. Several times the
Jennings journeyed to the work sites to observe the progress
of the dredges as the mammoth machines plowed their way
across the glades. During one such trip the family boated
up the Caloosahatchee River to inspect the dredges and to
indulge xn some "unexcelled duck shooting and fishing."
In 1911 the Jennings traveled to Europe — Holland and other
countries — on behalf of the National Drainage Association
and to observe firsthand the great European canal projects.
They returned to the United States aboard the British liner
Lusitania , later destined for a tragic demise.
In 1912 Jennings organized and hosted on behalf of
the state a trip from Fort Myers to Fort Lauderdale via
the newly-cut drainage canals. The journey, which treated
northern newsmen and prominent Floridians to a free excur-
sion, marked the official opening of a cross-state water-
way. The trip, undertaken to blunt criticism of the costly
Everglades project, was a success, for the participants
returned to their homes and issued glowing reports about
what they had seen in south Florida. Apparently, however,
they did more than just observe the canals and scenery for
in Jennings' expense log book of the expedition one finds
outlays for items such as playing cards, poker chips,
tumblers, cigars, strawhats, and bathing suits. Austin
Mann, who had been promoting a cross-Florida canal for
decades and who was now seventy- four, was one of the guests
and it was one of the highlights of his life.
The Jennings were entranced with south Florida and
they began spending more and more of their time in the area.
In 1912 they purchased two waterfront lots in Miami, and in
1916 built a large vacation home which they named "House-
in-the-Woods. " It was located at 3633 Brickell Avenue,
between the James Deering estate "Vizcaya" and the William
Jennxngs Bryan home "Villa Serena." "House-in-the-Woods"
was the scene of several important meetings and parties
which the Jennings held to promote Everglades drainage,
conservation, political candidates, and women's rights.
In 1910 Jennings became attorney for Richard J.
Bolles, one of the largest landowners in the Everglades.
Jennings, Mann, and Broward had met Bolles at the Democratic
Convention in Colorado in 1908. A land speculator, Bolles
eventually purchased more than one-half million acres of
Florida's swamp and reclaimed lands. He was a controversial
figure and some accused him of using questionable land pro-
motion tactics. Eventually he was investigated by the
United States Senate. Despite his reputation, his purchase
of swamp land aided the state by bailing the drainage
project out of its economic doldrums. Prior to Bolles
the state was under continual attack by critics who accused
Broward and his associates of "draining the treasury" as
well as the Everglades. To Jennings and other officials
Bolles saved the beleaguered project during the time of its
most serious crisis. Because of friendship and legal
services performed for Bolles the Jennings became large
landowners. They acquired two large tracts of land from
Bolles; nearly 60,000 acres of timber and farmland in Clay
County that had been owned jointly by Bolles and Austin
Mann, and thousands more acres in Dade County near Homestead.
The Jennings family formed several companies. One, known
as the Dade Muck Land Company, operated a truck farm and
citrus grove on 3 00 acres, but it proved only marginally
successful. Eventually most of this land was sold or lost
to the banks during the economic depression of the 1930s.
On the Clay county land the Jennings built themselves a
large farmhouse, later named "San Lebrydo," and organized the
Artesian Farm Company of Middleburg, which farmed vegetables
and sold acreage to out-of-state buyers.
The Jennings continued to maintain their original
homestead in Brooksville even though they seldom visited
it. Thus by 1915 they owned homes in Brooksville, Jackson-
ville, Miami, and Middleburg. Because of the ex-governor's
busy law practice it was May's responsibility to oversee
these properties and also much of the operation of the
lands. These tasks she performed with her usual efficiency
and aplomb. Through the years she had acquired a good
knowledge of agricultural affairs from her father and
husband. The management of the varied properties was a
time-consuming chore and she conducted much of the day-to-
day operations through the mails. Only the Middleburg
property was regularly visited by the family. At one time
May supervised work on a tangerine grove, pecan orchard, a
large potato patch, and a strawberry farm, each in a dif-
ferent location. In using the mails to conduct business
she followed the lead of Austin Mann for he had relied on
this method for years. His hectic traveling schedule had
dictated it. Between 1905 and 1914 he was managing a large
peach plantation in Tennessee and properties in Brooksville,
as well as a land speculation venture near Sanford known
as Celery City. All of this was in addition to his Good
Roads work. Both May and her father had the ability to
handle simultaneously a variety of family, business, and
Occasionally the Jennings had relatives live in their
houses and oversee the properties. Two such family members
were Roy Mann, May's brother, and Tom Jennings, her brother-
in-law. Even though Jacksonville was the family's permanent
residence May felt comfortable in all of her houses, and
they were always furnished and ready for an unannounced
visit by the family. she felt a special affinity for her
Miami home, which the Jennings comtemplated as a future
retirement home. She made friends with many south Florida
women and those friendships were later to be invaluable aids
in her statewide clubwork.
May Jennings appeared to outside observers as a
woman who was "all business," but to those who knew her
intimately she was also a loving and compassionate person.
While she had little outward sympathy for moral weakness or
indolence, for many years she privately loaned money to
relatives and friends who needed help. She financed the
college education of her husband's niece, Marie Kells, and
supported her brother's family because he was an alcoholic
and could not hold a permanent job. She loaned money to
her dressmaker and her servants when they needed help.
Because of her strong and sunny personality, which acted
as a magnet, she drew to her those who needed a friend.
Her manuscript collection is full of letters from strangers,
as well as friends, requesting help. Over the years she
gave money to the Children's Home Society, Daniel Memorial
Orphanange, St. Luke's Hospital, the Audubon Society, the
Jacksonville Y.W.C.A., and many other organizations. Her
own talents as a fundraiser were often sought for she was
not hesitant to ask her many friends for a donation to what
she considered a worthy cause.
May's club career began soon after the Jennings moved
to Jacksonville. In November of 1905 she received a letter:
"Dear Madam, At a recent regular meeting of the Executive
Board of the Jacksonville Woman's Club you were duly elected
a member." She was thirty-three years old, and photo-
graphs of her at that time show a slim, elegantly-dressed
woman with strikingly attractive features. Her hats,
always large and colorful, were already her trademark.
Genteel in manner and dress she looked the part of the re-
fined clubwoman. Her looks and gentility, however , disguised
a strong personality and a politically astute mind. Those
who knew her realized that the small, cultured, fashiona-
bly dressed woman could and did speak with authority and
command of the facts. She was particularly persuasive
when talking from a dais before an audience. Over the
years the "sense of presence" and charisma that May Jennings
exuded were regularly noted by observers.
Within a short time of moving to Jacksonville she
had joined the Woman's Club, Ladies' Friday Musicale,
Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Springfield
Improvement Association. She would eventually help
organize the Jacksonville Y.W.C.A. and many other local and
state organizations. During those early years in Jackson-
ville she particularly enjoyed her membership in the
Musicale, and was a member of its chorus which rehearsed
weekly. At one Musicale gathering she sang a solo entitled
"Absent" which, according to a newspaper report, was per-
formed in a "manner which called forth repeated applause. "
In 1907 the Musicale 's chorus performed at the Dixieland
Theatre as part of a Saengerfest sponsored by the local
German society. A few weeks prior to the performance May
read before her fellow chorus members a paper she had
written about Wagner's Tannhauser . Eventually she resigned
from the chorus because of the press of other obligations,
but she retained membership in the Musicale and continued
to attend its many functions.
From 1905 until 1914 May's ablest efforts were
expended on behalf of the Jacksonville Woman's Club (JWC) ,
because it more than any other organization seemed to meet
her earnest need to be actively involved in community
affairs. Through it she felt she could participate in the
progressive political movement then underway in Florida,
a movement which her husband's administration had helped
launch. Through her clubwork May Jennings was to become
one of the first women in Florida to enter the state's
political scene. She became one of the first to take
advantage of the new social and political changes that were
beginning to impact American women, allowing them to play
a more involved role. Those changes would thrust May Jen-
nings into the forefront of activity and make her one of
the best known personalities in the state.
A major forum that women, like May Jennings, used
to gain entry into the new worlds of political and civic
responsibility was the woman's club — an organization which
provided just the right amount of genteel respectability
for public exposure, while at the same time providing the
ladies with self help and educational programs. While the
woman's club movement appeared to be a peripheral outgrowth
of the national progressive movement that began during the
1890s, in reality it could trace its roots back to the Civil
War period. There was a direct link, a thread of continuity,
running from the antebellum abolition societies to the
women's missionary societies of the 1870s, to the women's
temperance unions a decade later, and then to the women's
clubs of the 1890s. it was not rare at all to find many
clubwomen who had belonged to each of these earlier organi-
After the Civil War more and more women, North and
South, sought employment outside their homes and began to
handle their own property. The 1890s were to mark an impor-
tant turning point in this phenomenon. Changing public
attitudes toward women plus technology, which helped to
free them from household drudgery, helped to promote a
degree of liberation from a male-dominated society, and
allowed them to devote themselves to interests beyond the
family. They felt that a new day was dawning and they
yearned to join the mainstream of American life, where
educational, economic, and political opportunities were
available The South had always been more conservative in
its attitudes toward the role of women, but even here there
seemed to be an enthusiasm expressed by females as they
approached the twentieth century. A few even believed it
would be possible to move from "pedestal to politics," to
enter the mundane and hitherto forbidden areas of public and
Women's clubs became a major vehicle for their
members to participate in social and political matters.
Still wearing "bustles, corsets, and stays," more and more
females began to venture forth to challenge the entrenched
views of themselves and society. This spiritual and politi-
cal awakening would have major consequences, for though
the women lacked the franchise and other political rights,
their clubs became mediums for progressive social change.
Women's organizations in Florida and elsewhere made a major
impact on life in America. Club leaders, like May
Jennings, left an indelible mark on Florida's political,
educational, and social institutions.
The Florida woman's club movement spread rapidly.
Organizations were formed throughout the state during the
1890s, following the establishment of the Green Cove
Springs club, the state's oldest, established in 1883. 24
During the 1890s female reading societies and village
improvement associations appeared everywhere, no town seemed
to be too small for such an organization. Ladies met in
their homes to study history, literature, music, art, and
political science. They also participated in charity work,
which usually encouraged them to discuss community problems.
Many females came to realize that they had a responsibility
to help resolve problems relating to education, housing,
health, libraries, parks, crime, and sanitation. They met
with local officials in an attempt to coax or coerce them
into taking action. Political involvement at first was
tempered by timidity and circumspection but as the women
gained confidence their goals and tactics became bolder.
Their pathway was often impeded by ridicule, disappoint-
ments, and defeats. Successes in the early days of the
movement were few. Confrontations with male public officials
were routine and left each club with its own "hairraising"
story to insert into its minutes books.
In the early period, 1890-1920, club membership was
confined almost entirely to women from affluent, upper-
middle-class families. Women like May Jennings became the
leaders of the clubs, for they were well educated, possess-
ed organizational abilities, and many were good public
speakers. At first most of the clubs were little more
than social gatherings with teas, cotillions, musicales,
and garden parties consuming most of the members' time and
energies, but as time passed this situation changed. Soon
the women were studying social problems in depth, writing
position papers, circulating petitions, and making public
Florida's early clubs sometimes had amusing names.
Many names were purposely obscure for the women seemed to
want to avoid publicity so as not to call attention either
to themselves or their organizations. Unusual club names
in Florida included the Fortnightly Club of Palatka, House-
keepers of Coconut Grove, Progressive Culture Club of
Titusville, Caxtons of Pensacola, Entre Nous of West Palm
Beach, Current Topic Club of Lake City, Twentieth Century
Club of Gainesville, Avila of Rockledge, and the Literary
and Debating Club of Melrose. There were also village
improvement associations. Of course the names fooled no
one; everyone knew they were women's clubs even if they did
not sound like them.
Most of the clubs eventually changed their names
to something more identifiable. For example, Brooksville
women first organized as the Whittier Club, became the
Ladies' Improvement Society, and finally became the Brooks-
ville Woman ' s Club. Whatever the designation, the organiza-
tions furnished the comaraderie, intellectual stimulation,
and leadership training which the women sought. Usually
the first goal of each club was to build a clubhouse on a
prominent site in town. Many of these structures were
still standing in 1980. In smaller towns these buildings
often served as the community center.
By 1895 there were enough clubs and intercommunica-
tion between them for a statewide meeting to be held to
discuss federation. Such arrangements among women's clubs
had already occurred in other states. There was even a new
national federation, the General Federation of Women's
Clubs (GFWC) , composed of state federations, which had been
organized in New York City in 1894. The GFWC eventually
became a powerful organization with headquarters and lobby-
ists located in Washington, D.C. Through the years the GFWC
would work for municipal and national governmental reforms,
child labor legislation, penal reform, equitable taxation,
improved public education, health laws, and national conser-
vation laws. The strength of the General Federation was to
lie in its numbers. By 1914 every state federation had
joined it and it represented more than two million American
The General Federation offered up to twenty different
subjects to study, including everything from political
science, music and art, to conservation, and public health.
Subjects were dropped and others added as the times and
political interests of the women dictated. The General
Federation held a biennial convention in a large, major
American city every two years, at which programs were
presented on the different subjects, called departments in
the Federation, after which the women would vote on pertinent
issues that they wanted to push in the halls of government.
In 1980 the General Federation of Women's Clubs was still a
viable organization with its headquarters in Washington.
On February 21, 1895, eight women representing five
village associations met in the library of the Green Cove
Springs Village Improvement Association. '' Attending were
Mrs. E.N. Burrows, Mrs. E.V. Low, Mrs. E.G. Munsell, and
Mrs. E.A. Graves, Green Cove Springs; Mrs. S.B. Safford,
Tarpon Springs; Mrs. Emma C. Tebbetts, Crescent City; Mrs.
S.L. Morse, Orange City, and Mrs. L.E. Wamboldt, Fairfield.
That same day the women voted to federate their clubs and
thereby established the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs
(FFWC) . The constitution and by-laws set forth the objec-
tive: "To bring the women's clubs [of Florida] into acquain-
tance and mutual helpfulness." Clubs applying for
membership were expected to be "free from sectarian or
political bias and [to express] the spirit of progress on
broad and humane lines." The Federation was governed by
a state president, lesser officers, and a board of directors,
which was to be composed of veteran clubwomen. All officers
served two year terms.
At first some Florida clubs refused to join the state
federation, accusing it of "radicalism." This was particu-
larly true of the conservative panhandle area of the state,
yet the Federation grew. In 1910 it contained thirty-six
clubs representing 16 00 women; by 1914 some 6,000 women had
The Federation's organizational framework was
patterned after the General's, which it joined the following
year. Starting with only one section it was eventually
divided into five state sections, formed by combining contig-
uous counties. By 1920 there were twelve sections, each
headed by a vice-president who worked under the state
president. Each section held an annual meeting; once a
year the whole Federation met in convention. The first
statewide convention was held in 18 96 at Green Cove Springs.
In the early years delegates sometimes had to overcome
formidable odds just to attend the conventions; long
distances between cities, poor traveling facilities, and
opposition from skeptical and hostile family members. Only
eleven women attended the fourth annual state convention
which met in Jacksonville in 1899.
The Florida Federation's departments were the same
as the General's, but as each state was allowed its own
variations, Florida had additional ones. These included
departments which promoted bird protection, forestry,
waterways, good roads, and the Seminole Indians. Florida
women reflected a more than ordinary interest in the develop-
ment and conservation of the state's natural resources. As
in the General Federation the departments in the state
federation were added and dropped as interests dictated.
From its inception in 1895 the Florida Federation
was a politically-minded organization. The first official
action taken by the women at the historic Green Cove
Springs meeting, in 1895, was to direct each of the five
member clubs to "hold a meeting for the purpose of drawing
up a petition to the legislature of Florida, praying it to
recind the act [which] allowed cattle to run at large in
towns of less than twelve hundred inhabitants." Thus
was the Federation's first legislative program launched.
The animal problem was a familiar one to Floridians. May
Jennings and her sister clubwomen had tackled the problem
in Brooksville as early as 1891. Amazingly the fledgling
Federation almost made good on its stated objective for
"on May 6, 1895, Mr. Fleming introduced in the senate, Bill
Number 284, amending the act defining what cities shall
impound live cattle." The bill passed the Senate on May
17, but failed in the House.
The battle over free roaming and tick-laden Florida
livestock had begun. It was to become one of the longest
and toughest battles the Federation was ever to face. The
Florida range industry was one of the state's most powerful
and entrenched interests, and it proved to be a formidable
foe. Lucy Blackman, historian of the Florida Federation,
writing in the 1930s, described the consequences of that
1895 call to legislative action as follows: "Thus has it
been for more than thirty years that between the Federa-
tion of Women's Clubs and the Legislature of Florida, the
sacred Florida cow has been an everpresent bone of conten-
tion—skin and bone literally. It looks as though there
might be thirty more years of contention ahead of us before
this ticky and emaciated beast shall have been sufficiently
immersed and groomed, and made fit for good society. I can
promise the legislators of those coming days that the
Federation women will still be on hand with their resolu-
tions and persuasions." Mrs. Blackman 's prediction was
true for the livestock problem was not completely resolved
until the 1960s. The Federation ladies stood strong and
adamant during the long battle, with May Jennings leading
much of the fight.
From 1895 the Federation was never without a legis-
lative program. At each annual convention the clubwomen
would discuss the major issues pertinent to the organiza-
tion's departments, and then by motion and vote produce
a political action program which would become the following
year's goal. This uniform, statewide solidarity on issues
was one of the keys to the Federation's successes. Since
the Federation objectives became the goals of each club,
then each member was a fighter for the cause. A word from
the leadership was enough to flood the legislature or
special officials with hundreds of letters and telegrams.
Some of the Federation's favorite programs took many years
to accomplish. The fight for compulsory school attendance
laws lasted fourteen years. The struggle to preserve part
of tropical south Florida took more than forty years; the
battle over unfenced and undipped livestock was waged over
a period of seventy years. Many of the Federation's most
spectacular successes occurred during its first twenty-
five years. Success often depended on the calibre of the
organization's leadership. Fortunately, women with the
required talents were there when needed. The Federation's
legislative committee, which was established in 1908, had
the direct responsibility of seeing that the organization's
political program was publicized and presented to the state's
representatives at each session of the legislature. By
necessity, the women who chaired this committee had to be
articulate and politically knowledgeable. Few were to equal
May Jennings in political astuteness, and she served as a
member of this important committee longer than any other
woman in the Federation's history.
Through the years the FFWC supported a myriad of
political objectives. Gradually the organization was to
become conservative in its political point of view, but,
during its early history, it was as progressive as any
organization in Florida. Although it supposedly was non-
partisan, there was always a conservative faction in the
Federation which opposed the more progressive majority.
Nevertheless, for its day, the Federation was a liberal
During its first decades several themes tended to
repeat themselves in the Federation's political programs.
Ever concerned about "social purity," i.e. morality, and
aware that their sex did not have full economic or legal
rights, the women continually tried to upgrade the status
of women in these areas. In 1897 they petitioned the legis-
lature to raise the female age of moral and legal consent
from age ten to twenty-one. In 19 01 the age was finally
set at eighteen. The Federation ladies worked for legisla-
tion which would protect the family and female and children's
rights. In 1911 the organization issued a booklet titled
Some Laws of Importance to Women in Florida . It was the
first of many pamphlets on female rights published in
Public education was another issue which the Federa-
tion consistently promoted. As early as 1901 the women
were urging the establishment of tax-funded kindergartens,
modernized school curricula, improved teacher training,
compulsory attendance laws, adequate public funding, and
females being appointed to school boards. For twenty years
the Federation sponsored a free traveling library which
was open to the public and used by the public schools.
Conservation and beautif ication were also promoted
by the Federation. These issues were particularly championed
by a small but vocal group of south Florida women. At
the Federation's 1905 convention several of these ladies
introduced a motion which would have far-reaching conse-
quences for Florida and the nation. The motion as adopted
advocated the creation of "a Federal forest reservation of
Paradise Key in the Everglades, in order to preserve the
unique groups of Royal Palms, this being the only spot in
the United States where these palms are found growing
naturally. ' When May became president of the Federation
years later she used this motion, which was still on the
Federation's books, to help bring its promises to fruition.
The Federation also worked to get a state Forestry Commis-
From the beginning the Federation was concerned with
public health and child care. In these areas the clubwomen
were usually far ahead of local and state health officials.
In 19 07 the clubwomen began selling Christmas seals, with
proceeds going into anti-tuberculosis work. They sponsored
"health days" in the public schools. In 1910 the organiza-
tion sponsored a speaking tour by Dr. Ellen Lowell Stevens,
female doctor and clubwoman. In 1911 clubwomen in Jackson-
ville were responsible for the establishment of a State
Conference of Charities. The Federation was also a major
pressure group which brought about the creation of the
state's first tuberculosis sanitarium and school for the
retarded and feeble-minded.
The Federation's impact was first felt at the local
level. Each club became a vehicle for social and civic
change within its own community. In 1899 the Green Cove
Springs Village Improvement Association launched a city
beautif ication program, organized a forestry and bird club,
and provided funding and staffing for a free public library.
The St. Petersburg Women's Town Improvement Association
worked to get an ordinance which would prevent loose chickens
and other fowl from polluting public sidewalks and roadways.
Other clubs were protecting birds, planting trees, cleaning
streets, and establishing libraries; "sidewalks, bicycle
paths, fences, and even school houses were built by these
intrepid women. They raised money for their projects
by sponsoring exhibitions, banquets, and candy and bake
sales. The women's good works were being felt and acknowl-
edged across the state.
The clubwomen's activities were not always welcomed
by the general public. City and county officials were
often startled and usually perplexed when groups of local
ladies marched into their offices, demanding that they
clean up the communities and provide better services. Male
consternation and anger were often confounded by the fact
that the women confronting them were their very own wives,
daughters, sisters, and mothers. Lucy Blackman refers to
these pioneer clubwomen as "heroines" and "captains
courageous." She states that they were consistently faced
with "the old Adam war-cry 'Woman's Place Is In The Home,'
which reverberated through the pines and over the rivers
and lakes and oceans from Pensacola to Key West. " One
of these women, a member of one of Jacksonville's most
prominent families, remembered that in those early days
she was often reviled for associating with such an "iniqui-
tious movement" as a woman's club. Others recalled "that
the men of the towns were bitter in their denunciations of
Women's Clubs [but] that there were always enough women
with spinal cords starched stiff, who raised eyebrows and
went forth anyway to do as they saw fit.
If local officials resented the women, the members
of Florida's all-male legislature were especially indignant.
Their ridicule, sarcasm, and mockery was routinely reported
in the state's newspapers. It seems that the women had an
"annoying habit of talking back to the legislators after
they had been told politely to go home and tend their
babies. " With the exceptions of the two Jacksonville
papers, the Florida Times-Union and the Metropolis , early
allies, most of the state press was skeptical of what the
women were trying to do. In an editorial "No Women in
Politics Please," the Jacksonville Sun pleaded for some
way to "save us from this catastrophe."
A writer in Florida Magazine wondered "What will the
twentieth century woman be?" after observing that changes
in manners and habits of thought had brought about radical
"new conditions" in the domestic sphere. And the Ladies
Home Journal wishfully noted that "The tide of women rushing
pellmell into all kinds of business has been stemmed.
Of course, the tide was not stemmed and women in Florida
and elsewhere began to take their rightful place in public
May Jennings, more than any other female in Florida,
was to personify the new civic-minded twentieth-century
woman. Her rise to prominence would begin in the Jackson-
ville Woman's Club.
Notes to Chapter V
Jennings was a director of the Leesburg State Bank
and the State Bank of Ybor City. An income statement for
1905 shows that the family spent $5,957 on living expenses,
$2,866 on law office expenses, and $30,733 on investments.
WSJ Papers, Box 20.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , May 23, 1964.
3 Ibid .
Governor Jennings' desk is in the possession of
Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
A.S. Mann to W.S. Jennings, June 30, 1907. WSJ
Papers, Box 22.
Jacksonville City Directory, 1912 (Jacksonville,
1912) , n.p.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , May 23, 1964.
Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings, July 27,
197 8. Penney Farms, Florida.
Jacksonville Metropolis , April 20, 1908.
For a description of Jennings ' role in resolving
the legal problems which threatened the drainage project
see W.S. Jennings, "Florida's Public Lands," Legislative
Bluebook , 1917, pp. 55-73.
Jacksonville Metropolis , April 13, 1907.
W.S. Jennings to William Jennings Bryan, November
20, 1908. WSJ Papers, Box 22.
Itemized list of trip supplies. WSJ Papers, Box
24. For additional details about the trip see Alfred J.
and Katherine A. Hanna, Lake Okeechobee, Wellspring of the
Everglades (Indianapolis, 1948) , pp. 159-161.
Miami City Map, 1918 ; Miami City Directory, 1919 .
For the story of the Everglades project and Jennings',
Broward's, and Bolle's roles in it see Hanna, Okeechobee ,
Jacksonville Metropolis , February 28, 1906.
Arch Fredric Blakey, Parade of Memories, History of
Clay County, Florida (Jacksonville, 1976) , pp. 187-188.
The majority of the Clay County land was still in the hands
of the Jennings family in 1980.
Jacksonville Woman's Club to May Jennings, November
25, 1905. MMJ Papers, Box 2.
Jacksonville Metropolis , March 16, 1907.
Souvenir zum Verbandsf est , 1907. May Jennings' copy
of the Saengerfest program can be seen in the Haydon Burns
City Library, Jacksonville, Florida.
For a short history of the women's movements of
the nineteenth century and the role played by southern
women see Anne F. Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal
to Politics, 1830-1930 (Chicago, 1970), passim.
Jennie June Croley, The History of the Woman's Club
Movement in America (New York, 1898) , p. 155. Green Cove
Springs is designated the site of Florida's first woman's
Margaret Nell Price, "The Development of Leadership
by Southern Women Through Clubs and. Organization" (M.A.
thesis, University of North Carolina, 1945) , passim.
Karen J. Blair, "The Clubwoman as Feminist: The
Woman's Culture Club Movement in the United States, 18 6 3-
1914" (Ph.D. dissertation, State University of New York
at Buffalo, 1976) , passim.
Croley, The History of the Woman's Club Movements
in America , p. 55
Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 129.
29 Ibid. , p. 127.
Florida Federation of Women's Clubs hereafter re-
ferred to as the Federation or the FFWC. The General
Federation of Women's Clubs hereafter referred to as the
General or the GFWC.
Blackinan, The Women of Florida , I, p. 130.
List of clubs in the FFWC, 1914. See Appendix II.
List of presidents of FFWC. See Appendix III.
Location of first twenty-five FFWC conventions.
See Appendix IV.
Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 131.
36 Ibid . , p. 130.
Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, Some Laws of
Interest to Florida Women (Jacksonville, 1914).
Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 153. The two
women who introduced the resolution were Mary Barr Munroe
(Mrs. Kirk Munroe) and Edith Gifford (Mrs. John Gifford) .
40 Ibid . , p. 130.
41 Ibid. , p. 132.
Ibid . , p. 133.
I bid .
Ibid. , p. 136.
Jacksonville Sun , December 2, 1905.
Florida Magazine , I, November, 1900, p. 105.
Ladies Home Journal quoted in Florida Magazine , IV,
March, 19 02. " "
AN ENTHUSIASTIC CLUBWOMAN"
The Jacksonville Woman's Club became one of the
state's largest and most influential women's clubs. It had
its beginnings on January 20, 1897, when forty women met
at the Windsor Hotel across from Hemming Park to organize
a club for the "mutual improvement [and] entertainment of
its members, [and] for the cultivation of the amenities of
social life, and to give aid to all worthy objects." Thus
its purpose was threefold: self-improvement, entertainment,
and good works. The women represented the city's most
affluent and prominent families, and included Lula Paine
Fletcher (Mrs. Duncan U.), Julia Furcghgott (Mrs. Leonard),
Katherine Livingston Egan (Mrs. Dennis), Cordelia Durkee
(Mrs. J.H.), Lucy Colby Wamboldt (Mrs. N.C.), and Lizzie
Marsh Yerkees (Mrs. J.B.). Later members came from the
Cummer, L'Engle, Barnett, Meigs, Broward, and Young families.
By 1907 the club had 215 members.
Soon after its establishment the Jacksonville club
began offering a full slate of activities. Reading and
study classes were organized; a nurse was hired to visit
the city's poor and sick; and art and flower shows were held
to raise money for the public schools and St. Luke's Hospi-
tal. When the great fire of 1901 nearly destroyed
Jacksonville the club supplied most of the workers for the
Woman's Relief Corp. By 1904, the year that a clubhouse
was constructed at 18 East Duval Street, the club had become
an influential member of the city's social and civic estab-
lishment. In 1927 a more spacious club home was built on
In 1906 the club supported a pure food and drug
exposition by arranging a parade of decorated baby coaches
and "goat carriages" on Bay Street. A woman's lounge was
opened in the club building for downtown shoppers and female
employees to use as a "haven of rest." In 1907 the clubwomen
protested to city hall about the "cows roaming free" through-
out Springfield, and they petitioned the Board of Public
Works to provide playgrounds in the parks. The club had
become so successful at getting things done that Claude
L'Engle editorialized in the Jacksonville Dixie that "Wonens '
Clubs with the wonderfully feminine energies underlying
them, have the levers in their possession like old Atlas
to move Mother Earth off of its pegs."
During the Jacksonville club's first decade the women
studied such disparate items as forestry, opera, flower
arranging, conservation, municipal reform, Milton's Paradise
Lost , child care, legends of Florida, bacteria, Shakespeare's
plays, birds, Greek architecture, the legal status of women,
and the nebula hypothesis. Two other subjects on the agenda
were ship canals, perhaps suggested by May Jennings, and
the question, "Are We Healthier and Happier Than Our Grand-
mothers?" To the latter the women answered in the affirma-
tive, but the real importance of the question lay not in
the fact that the women answered "yes," but that they had
asked the question at all. It reflected just how far they
had come since "the good old days."
After joining the Jacksonville club in 1905, May
became one of its most active members. She was popular
with most of the women, but her energy, deep commitment to
social progress, and her political bravura were a source of
alarm to the club's more staid and conservative members.
Some of the ladies felt that she was too interested in
politics and might involve the club in controversy. Lucy
Blackman states that the women's clubs were "the most demo-
cratic organizations in the world" for they asked for no
"ancient lineage, adherance to a particular political creed,
or specific religious belief." This was true, but like
all organizations which drew its members from an elite
clientile the women's clubs tended to be exclusive. New
members had to be sponsored, and only a few lower-middle-
class or Jewish women were ever invited to join. Victorian
morality and social conservatism made some of the clubwomen
frown on anyone who was not of the accepted class or who had
talents or ideas which might "rock the boat." May had
impeccable credentials, but she was different from most of
her associates in that she was not afraid of controversy or
confrontation. In fact, she seemed to thrive on them. A
few of the Jacksonville members never truly accepted her,
and later they accused her of "playing politics" and of
"grandstanding" for personal attention. Many seemed not
to understand the importance of the work that she and other
Florida clubwomen were undertaking. To many women the ob-
jectives of their clubs and of the Federation were commenda-
ble, but they resented anything that interfered with their
own socializing or family responsibilities. To May, efforts
expended to achieve the Federation's political objectives
were not only serious business, but also a form of social
and intellectual entertainment. Her sense of citizenship
and nobless oblige gave clubwork a higher meaning than many
of her contemporaries were able to accept. Dedication and
commitment played a central role in her lifelong avocation
of civic and public service.
Many of May's rivals and harshest critics were women
very much like herself: highly motivated, intelligent, and
strong willed. Mrs. Minerva Jennings (Mrs. Frank E.), no
relation, and Margaret Young (Mrs. William B.), fell into
this category. Like May both were married to prominent men
and they were much involved in civic work in Jacksonville.
May was to clash with them often over club policy and tac-
tics. The rivalry between the women occasionally threatened
to erupt into open hostility, but usually the competition
remained hidden and out of public sight. While never
petty, May's quick tongue and overwhelming sense of self-
assurance sometimes made people fear her. The majority of
women that she worked with over the years supported her and
her ideas, even though some may have been awed by her abili-
ties. One admirer later wrote, "Mrs. Jennings shows a
marked degree of disregard of cliques. [She] has risen
superior to them. In fact fairness is one of the attributes
that has been most salient in all that she has done. She
is approachable at all times." Through the years May was
to garner a sizable group of loyal supporters.
May Jennings was interested and active in so many
things during her lifetime that she might be accurately
described as a renaissance woman. She was interested in
art, music, and drama. Through careful organization of her
time she was able to involve herself in many different
types of civic, club, and political matters and projects
at the same time. While involved in the many activities of
the Friday Musicale she could also solicit funds for an
orphanage, lead a petition drive, organize political tactics
for a lobbying effort on the legislature, and also maintain
a full entertainment and travel schedule. Her interests
and her ability to work assiduously for disparate movements
reveals a woman with an active mind and much physical energy.
May Jennings could comfortably work on a host of club, civic,
and political projects simultaneously. She retained this
ability and her peripatetic lifestyle all of her life.
Occasionally she would narrow her vision and concentrate
for the moment on one project, but it was usually for just
long enough to get some favorite project begun moving, or
terminated. The pace she set for herself was astonishing.
Few women were able to match either the number of projects
she promoted, the number of clubs she belonged to, the
many people, prominent and less well known, she knew on a
first name basis, or the intensity of effort which she
brought to her work. Her name appeared frequently in the
newspapers and on the rosters of many scores of clubs and
organizations. By 1910 she was well known by the general
public, and four years later when she became president of
the Florida Federation of Woman's Clubs she was the most
prominent woman in the state.
May Jennings hated inaction. She was a doer, and
she saw inaction as weakness. When named to head a committee
or assigned a responsibility she immediately began making
plans and organizing the workers necessary to get the
objective accomplished. She was somewhat unusual; most of
her associates lacked either confidence in their own abili-
ties or the experience to take on difficult tasks. The
Jacksonville club's yearbooks for 1906 and 1907 list her
as a member of the social purity committee, and as chairman
of the civics committee. For the next several years she
chaired the club's legislation committee. The earliest
record of her leading a movement was on a project which the
Jacksonville club undertook in the summer of 1906. Charac-
teristically, she chose to make it into a statewide crusade.
It involved railroad depots.
Jacksonville was known as the "gateway to Florida."
Hundreds of thousands of tourists passed through the city
each year; most of them traveling by train. The local depot
was a decrepit and uncomfortable building which did not put
either Jacksonville or Florida in the best light to visitors.
In 1906 the Jacksonville's Woman's Club members decided that
the old station needed a facelift. A committee, with May
Jennings as chairman, was formed to look into the situation.
She argued that the women should not limit their efforts to
Jacksonville. The problem was statewide; most of Florida's
depots were antiquated and uncomfortable. The women passed
a resolution, the first of many such documents bearing May's
signature, calling for a statewide campaign to repair, clean,
and beautify every depot in the state. Local citizens in
each community were called upon to lead the effort. May
mailed a copy of the resolution to every town government,
village improvement association, woman's club, newspaper,
and railroad official in the state she could ascertain. The
Jacksonville officials who received copies also received a
personal "lecture" on the problem from May and her committee
Publication of the resolution throughout Florida
helped to rally public opinion. May and her cohorts had
put state and local authorities on notice that Florida
clubwomen were a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately,
the results of the campaign were mixed, and many station
masters refused to cooperate in cleaning up their depots.
However, enough interest was stirred that R. Hudson Burr,
state railroad commissioner, who had received a personal
note from May, felt impelled to make an inspection tour of
the railroads' public facilities. Newsmen noted that Burr
was unfavorably impressed with what he found and was particu-
larly appalled by conditions at the Brooksville station.
Despite railroad resistance and lethargy among town
officials, May was pleased that the resolution had stirred
up public interest and had forced state officials to take
some action. The campaign showed that if women acted
together they could affect the quality of public life. In
November 1907 May attended the thirteenth annual FFWC con-
vention in Gainesville. It was her first recorded atten-
dance at a Federation convention. While there she reported
that the railroad campaign, while not an overwhelming success,
had significantly improved depots in some of the state's
major cities, like Jacksonville, Tampa, and Tallahassee. On
her return to Jacksonville the Metropolis described her as
"a very important member of the Florida circle of club
In 1907, as chairman of the civics committee, May
began working on behalf of child welfare, a cause which was
to consume much of her energy in the next decade. She began
her work at first with the State Reform School at Marianna.
Clubwomen had shown an interest in the institution since
its establishment in 1897, and many deplored the harsh and
unsanitary conditions at the school. Facilities were inade-
quate, and the inmates were often mistreated. The majority
of children were black, three were girls. Medical atten-
tion was lacking and the mortality rate was high. The
inmates received little formal education and no religious
or moral teachings. Boys as young as ten years were observed
working the school's farm with their feet shackled by chains.
Efforts to establish a Florida juvenile court system,
improve the juvenile penal system, and public education,
and regulate child labor were loosely grouped together in
what was termed the child welfare movement. Various organi-
zations were involved. The movement was given a major
impetus when the conditions at Marianna were publicized.
In 19 07 Governor Broward called for doubling the appropria-
tion to the school, to $10,000 per annum. May supported
this action and made the improvement of the Marianna school
the major objective of her committee. She read a paper to
the club that she had written about the conditions there,
and then called for a memorial to the legislature endorsing
Broward's request. The women stated that they "heartily
agreed that the institution should be made a real Reforma-
tory School [with industrial training] and not be a
Juvenile Prison." The memorial, signed by May and 173
Jacksonville clubwomen, was sent to the governor, the
cabinet, and each legislator. Telegrams and letters poured
in from the women, and the 19 07 legislature, one of the
state's most progressive, not only heeded the governor's
request concerning the reform school, but it also passed
Florida's first comprehensive child labor law. Mrs. C.H.
Raynor, Federation president, was presented the pen with
which Broward signed this bill. May was pleased for she
had written or talked to every official that she knew in
support of the bills.
There was still much to be done at the state level
to secure better conditions and rights for children. When
the 1909 legislature convened, several other organizations
united with the clubwomen. They included the Florida State
Federation of Labor, and a loose confederation of private
child welfare agencies led by Marcus Fagg, superintendent
of the Children's Home Society of Jacksonville, Florida's
largest orphanage. Led by May, Jacksonville clubwomen again
submitted a resolution to the legislature. This time it
called for a $25,000 yearly appropriation to the Marianna
institution. Albert W. Gilchrist, who was now governor, was
visited by May and received personally a copy of the new
resolution. She also delivered a memorial from the club
supporting another more comprehensive child labor bill which
was ready for the legislature. Unfortunately, she was
unable to remain in Tallahassee to lobby for the bills.
Despite a full-scale letter writing campaign by clubwomen
and personal lobbying by Marcus Fagg, the 1909 legislature
refused to increase the reform school's appropriation or to
enact the child labor bill. It did, however, appoint a
committee to inspect the facility at Marianna. Undaunted,
May and the clubwomen vowed to continue the work. The year
1911 would be a crucial year in the struggle for child
Determined to help the school, the Federation's
legislative committee devoted the years 1910-1911 to a study
of the reformatory. The committee was now led by Susan B.
Wight (Mrs. Henry) of Sanford, an aggressive leader. The
school was still underfunded, and the women believed that
the special legislative committee of 1909 had "whitewashed"
its report on conditions at the school. One morning soon
after the lawmakers had issued this report Mrs. Wight and
Mrs. Willian B. Young, "put on their hats, and, uninvited
and unannounced and unexpected and evidently unwanted,
arrived at the Reformatory for a spend- the-day visit."
The report these women issued created a sensation in Florida,
and it gave progressives the ammunition they thought they
needed to convince the legislature that the school was a
disgrace. May, now chairman of the Jacksonville club's
legislation committee, again submitted a resolution on behalf
of the school to the 1911 legislature. She felt that by
working with labor, Marcus Fagg, and Mrs. Wight's committee,
the needed bill would now be enacted. To help the cause
the Federation published a small pamphlet entitled Plea for
the Marianna Reform School , which was mailed to all legis-
lators, women's clubs, and newspapers. Speakers traveled
throughout the state, among them Mrs. Wight, Mrs. Young,
Mrs. Frank Jennings, Marcus Fagg, and May Jennings to lobby
among citizens groups on behalf of the bill.
The women's 1911 resolution to the legislature urged
the lawmakers to adequately fund the Marianna school, but
it also called for enactment of a series of progressive
laws, including compulsory education, a child labor law,
and the prohibition of horse racing and all kinds of book-
making and betting in the state. The women worked hard to
get the legislation enacted. Unfortunately, for the second
time May was unable to spend time in Tallahassee and neither
was Mrs. Wight. The women had pinned their hopes on J.C.
Privett of the state labor organization and Mr. Fagg, but
halfway through the session labor withdrew its support of
the compulsory education bill. Toward the end of the
session Privett recommended as a substitute for the child
labor bill, a measure which would create a bureau of labor
and statistics. As a consequence the child labor bill was
allowed to die in committee. Mr. Fagg notified May, and
urged her to ask the women to contact their representatives.
May immediately sent urgent telegrams to clubwomen around
the state. Florence Cay, wife of a Tallahassee businessman
and former legislator, was asked to "do everything possible
to get child labor bill reconsidered. The legislation is
the only protection of the helpless children's best interests
against corporate wealth, and for humanity's sake passage
of bill should be urged. Conservation of the child is our
first duty." The women's effort was for nought; the bill did
The 1911 legislative session proved to be a mixed
blessing. The reform school's appropriation was increased
to §17,500 per annum, and a landmark juvenile court measure,
which revolutionized juvenile justice in Florida, was passed.
However, the legislature refused to enact either the child
labor bill or the compulsory education bill. May was
pleased with the progress attained, but she had learned a
valuable lesson; if lobbying was needed it had to be done
personally. This was not a responsibility to be entrusted
to third parties. She looked on Privett and his organiza-
tion as self-serving and opportunistic, and was thereafter
reluctant to work with them. Her association with Fagg
continued, however. When the 1913 legislature convened May
was in a more important position, and many legislators
would learn before the session ended just how personally
persuasive she could be. She was still interested in child
welfare but in another aspect. She had become the Federa-
tion's state chairman of education and worked with a
committee of five, one of whom was Virginia Trammell, the
Concurrent with her activity on behalf of child
welfare, May was involved in other causes. In 1907 she
became connected with a movement which kept the city of
Jacksonville in turmoil for many weeks. The temperance and
prohibition movements were on the ascendancy throughout the
nation, particularly the South. Prohibitionists in Duval
County had tried unsuccessfully to use the local option
clause in the Florida constitution and make Duval "dry."
In 1907 several events occurred which encouraged Jackson-
ville temperance advocates to try again. First, many
counties in South Carolina and Georgia voted to adopt pro-
hibition, and this led to an influx of breweries and liquor
establishments into north Florida. Second, a neighborhood
protective association was organized when whisky interests
attempted to expand into the pleasant, tree-lined suburb of
Springfield. Finally, several counties in Florida voted to
go "dry" in 1906 and 1907.
Disturbed by the encroachment of the liquor interests
and cheered by successes elsewhere, local businessmen,
including former Governor Jennings, formed the Duval County
Prohibition League to collect signatures for a petition to
be presented to the city council, calling for a "wet-dry"
referendum. Opposing this effort was the Business Men's
Association. Prohibition was a controversial and emotional
issue and as the campaign to get signatures increased, the
county became polarized. Friends, business partners, and
even families took opposing stands on the issue.
Midway into the campaign women favoring the petition
move met at the First Baptist Church and organized the
Women's Prohibition League. May Jennings was elected
president, and Mrs. Duncan U. Fletcher was chosen vice-
president. Within a month the organization had over 250
members. May quickly began organizing rallies and signing
up workers for the cause. Women were assigned to canvass
every block in the city's wards. Late in November the
women sponsored a public rally held in a large tent on West
Adams Street. As the campaign heated up so did the rhetoric,
The "drys" were accused of selling their "birthrights for
a mess of prohibition pottage." Those favoring the free
sale of liquor were said to be in cahoots with the Devil.
Evangelists and clergymen of every persuasion descended
upon the city to preach at impromptu rallies and harangue
citizens on the city's downtown streets, while local minis-
ters used their own pulpits to exhort their congregations to
vote the "right way."
In early 19 08 May wrote Governor Broward an indignant
letter concerning the many "blind tigers" (illicit liquor
establishments) which she claimed state and local officials
were allowing to proliferate in northeast Florida. She
received a rather cool reply from the governor and denials
from sheriffs in the affected counties. In February of that
year Carrie Nation, the famous "Kansas Saloon Smasher,"
visited Jacksonville as part of a statewide tour. May
scored a triumph when she persuaded Mrs. Nation to address
the Women's Prohibition League. Mrs. Nation, who said she
"used her tongue now" instead of an axe to smash barrooms,
delivered what was described as a rousing pep talk. Mrs.
Nation's addresses always "contained a liberal sprinkling of
quotations from scripture on the evils of alcohol mixed with
harsh words for local politicians and saloon keepers and
their patrons." At the reception which followed her
speech, Mrs. Nation passed out her famous red lapel pins
which were shaped like hatchets. For the duration of the
campaign May prominently displayed her pin on the collar of
Despite their work, the prohibitionist campaign
failed. The city council noted technical irregularities in
the petition, and the antis- on the council refused to vote
to call a special election. Disappointed but not deterred,
prohibitionists vowed to continue the struggle. In 1910 a
state prohibition constitution amendment was defeated by
Florida voters. In 1916 the prohibition issue played a
major role in Sidney J. Catts ' gubernatorial campaign, and,
of course, in 1919 the eighteenth amendment to the United
States Constitution made prohibition the law of the land.
May Jennings' involvement in the prohibition move-
ment reflected more than just an intellectual or moral
approval of the issue. She had firsthand knowledge of the
dangers inherent in liquor. Her brother was an alcoholic,
and he had caused the family embarrassment and grief. May
had found it necessary to provide financially for his wife
and children. Personal sorrow also motivated her prohibi-
tion work; her brother and his wife would both die young.
May's prohibition sentiments were therefore deeply felt and
remained with her all her life. She continued to support
prohibitionists, particularly the Florida Anti-Saloon League.
There is no record, however, that she ever belonged to the
Women's Christian Temperance Union.
In 1909 May became the leader of a committee of club-
women whose work resulted in improvements in the Duval County
penal system. In January of that year Katherine Eagan spoke
to a group of women about the deplorable conditions existing
at the city jail, a facility nicknamed "Raspberry Park."
The Jacksonville Metropolis had condemned the jail in arti-
cles and editorials, calling it a disgrace and little more
than "a hole in the wall." May's committee was supposed
to look into the situation. Within the week she addressed
the city council and invited its members to accompany her
and her committee on a tour of the facility. On February 1,
1909, she, Mrs. Waldo Cummer, Mrs. Guy Pride, and councilmen
St. Elmo Acosta, Maurice Slager, and Whitfield Walker
visited the jail. The group was appalled; the situation
was even worse than they had been told.
The jail accommodations consisted of two rooms: one
40' x 5' which housed sixty-seven black males, and the
other 20' x 5 1 where there were seventeen white men. Neither
cell had cots, windows, or sewerage. The stench was unbear-
able. Inmates slept on the stone floor, winter and summer.
They received bread and water once a day and corned beef on
Sundays. The city's health officer had never visited the
place. May was outraged by what she saw. The Metropolis
reported that the "club ladies will not rest until condi-
tions are bettered at Raspberry Park."
At the next council meeting officials listened to
May's plans for improvements to the facility and then quick-
ly voted to implement them; $967 was appropriated to add
plumbing, enlarge the cells, and cut windows in the walls
of the building. The clubwomen were still not satisfied,
and they continued their surveillance of the facility. The
following summer May went before the council again and
secured an additional $3 00 to improve the building further.
Eventually the building was demolished, and a county
penal farm was constructed past the city limits near north
May continued her work on behalf of other organiza-
tions. In February 1910, she became an organizer and charter
member of the Katherine Livingston Chapter of the
Daughters of the American Revolution, and, through this
organization, over the years helped sponsor many patriotic
events. In 1911 the chapter helped secure funds to pur-
chase a silver service for the newly launched battleship
Florida . When the ship was later decommissioned DAR mem-
bers arranged for the service to be placed in the Florida
governor's mansion. May served as a vice regent and later
as state chairman of the organization's old trails and roads
committee, and as head of its state library committee. For
many years the Livingston Chapter sponsored "Flag Day" and
"Americanism" programs in Duval County schools. During the
first world war the chapter raised money for the Red Cross
and for entertainment of soldiers stationed in the area.
In the 1920s it paid for a scholarship for a veteran to
attend the University of Florida. The Jacksonville DAR
was also responsible for the monument at Mayport which
commemorated the landing of Ribault and the French in the
seventeenth century. Through the years May worked on behalf
of the DAR chapter's goals and hosted many of its meetings
in her home.
May Jennings also worked on behalf of St. Luke's
Hospital through the Jacksonville Woman's Club's health
committee. She solicited funds for the hospital and worked
diligently — lobbying and writing letters--to secure a
contagious disease ward for the institution. She became
upset with hospital officials, however, when in 1914 the
institution was moved to a new location in Springfield.
May felt that it was an undesirable site so close to homes,
a school, and other public buildings. It was also believed
the hospital would lower area property values.
In 1911 May, Mrs. Bion H. Barnett, Mrs. W.B. Young,
and other interested ladies met to discuss the establishment
of a Young Women's Christian Association in the city. The
men had constructed a Y.M.C.A. several years earlier. May
was in charge of drawing up the by-laws and securing a
charter for the new women's association. She was also
appointed to help raise money for the new enterprise. During
the fund drive she wrote to her husband, "I canvassed for
the Y.W.C.A. yesterday and got $212 without counting yours.
We go again tomorrow, then we are going to strike."
The Calif ornian, a boarding house on Newnan Street,
was leased as the Association's first home. Later, a large
four-story building at 13 West Monroe Street was purchased. 27
May was elected to the Association's first board of direc-
tors, and she served until 1915. During her years on the
board she headed the "Y's" physical department, which was
supposed to provide the girls with the "right habits of
life, healthful environment, and development of good
physique." May continued her interest in the assoi
whether she was serving as an officer or not.
Continuing her many activities did not keep her busy
in 1912 for that year she became president of the Spring-
field Improvement Association, later known as the Spring-
field Woman's Club. While serving as president, 1912-1914,
she remained chairman of the Jacksonville Woman's Club
legislation committee and held an office in the state Federa-
tion. However, the Springfield and Jacksonville clubs were
friendly rivals, and May eventually resigned her member-
ship in the Jacksonville club and retained her Springfield
The Springfield club concerned itself mainly with
Springfield matters. During May's first tenure as president
of the club (she was reelected in 1920) , the organization
worked to preserve the suburban integrity of the area. It
sponsored beautif ication programs, maintained Springfield
Park, and sponsored band concerts during the summer. As the
self-appointed watchdog for the area, the club gained a
reputation as an activist organization. During the 1920s
the club became involved in one of the hottest issues ever
to confront the area. It concerned the removal of the Main
Street esplanade and the destruction of many of the area's
large oak trees. May Jennings was one of the leaders in
the battle to save the esplanade, but she was not successful.
By 1912 May Jennings had become perhaps the best
known woman in Florida. She had confronted almost every
Jacksonville and Duval County official, and many on the state
level. It was generally acknowledged that she was very
effective, and she was in demand to sponsor organizations
or speak on behalf of special causes. Her popularity was
abetted by the fact that through all of her civic work she
had maintained her own aura of gentility and sense of
decorum. The public perceived her as an honest, intelli-
gent, but determined woman who had the best interests of
all citizens at heart. She was also seen as a person
who could stand up to authorities and get things done.
The fact that she refrained from backing frivolous causes
or participating in unseemly behavior made her appear
In 1912 May spoke before several religious groups.
At the annual Baptist State Missionary Union at Lakeland
she described to an audience of women what true public
service meant to her, listing the many organizations--
Y.W.C.A., Mother's Clubs, Women's Clubs — which needed
workers. She urged women to work to purify and reform
American life, and warned that if they did not, America's
institutions might be destroyed by the influx of foreign-
speaking immigrants that were flowing into the country in
great numbers. She resented the fact that these immi-
grants, at least the men who became citizens, could partic-
ipate in national and state elections, while she and other
women who were native born, could not. She ended with the
exhortation, "Let us be more practical v/ith our religion,
and apply it to our own life work. There are comparatively
few enlisted in public service. We need more recruits to
lighten the burden of the few in this fast growing and much
needed work. " In reporting her speech the Florxda Times-
Union noted that "Mrs. Jennings is an enthusiastic club-
woman who sees herself and others as social workers."
At the annual Federation convention at West Palm
Beach in 1912, Elizabeth Hocker of Ocala was elected presi-
dent of the organization. May became vice-president and
chairman of the Federation's department of education, and
thus a member of the board of directors, and part of the
organization's inner circle. During Mrs. Hocker ' s term
the Federation began its most vigorous decade of growth
and political activity. She and May worked to strengthen
the organization. They wrote letters of encouragement and
spoke before many unaffiliated clubs urging them to join
the Federation. The results were impressive. Susan Wight
wrote May: "Good for you Lady, I am proud of you and our
prospects for advances. Things are beginning to move. Our
Federation is finally going to realize some dreams I've
dared to entertain for it." By 1913 the Federation had
grown to include some seventy-two clubs with a combined
membership of 3,600 women.
The Federation was able to select its leaders from
among the ablest women in Florida, and clubs were making an
impact on public opinion and legislation on every level--
local, county, and state. The Federation was no longer a
joke, even to the legislature. During the Hocker admin-
istration women in the clubs began to feel a real sense of
statewide camaraderie. They sensed that they belonged to
an important movement. The officers were a close-knit band
of women who became warm personal friends. Convening regu-
larly for board meetings, and through correspondence, and
visiting in each other's homes this group developed into
a sisterhood which had special meaning to each member. Their
letters to one another changed from formal businesslike
communications and began to include references to insider's
jokes and to personal family matters. Some of the women
even took to using nicknames. One club friend referred to
May as "Lady Bug," while another addressed her as "My Dear
Heavenly Twin," perhaps a reference to the fact that May
was a Gemini on the astrological chart. This spirit of
fun, of family, and camaraderie coincided with the period
of the Federation's greatest growth and most spectacular
In 1912 May was the right person to head the Federa-
tion's department of education. Her interest in public
education went back many years. She had supported her
husband's work during his years as president of the Hernando
High School board of trustees and while living in Tallahassee
she had supported the move to provide free textbooks and
increases in funding for public education. Twice she had
accompanied her husband when he had spoken before the Flori-
da Education Association. He had served for many years
as a trustee of Stetson University and, after leaving
the governor's office, he continued to speak to various
groups about the need for education legislation. in
Jacksonville May was an active member of the Springfield
Mother's Club and had been instrumental in organizing the
Duval County Federation of Mother's Clubs. She served
on the committee which had entertained delegates to the
Florida Education Association's 1912 convention. In addi-
tion, the Jennings were personal friends of many of the
state's most prominent educators. William N. Sheats,
William H. Holloway, William Conradi, Lincoln Hulley, A. A.
Murphree, and William F. Blackman had all been entertained
at one time or another in the Jennings' Jacksonville home.
In 1910 State Superintendent William Holloway appoint-
ed May to the executive committee of the Florida Women's
School Improvement Association. She served three years.
Also on the committee was Lucy Blackman, May's close friend
and wife of William F. Blackman. The objectives of the
Association were to make "schools the center of gravity of
community life and arouse in parents a greater sense of
obligation and responsibility" to education. The Asso-
ciation oversaw the establishment of local chapters which
in turn were supposed to work for the establishment of
school libraries and improved school grounds. By 1911,
150 of these groups had been organized in the state.
Thus by the time May became head of the Federation's
education department she had a good knowledge of the problems
and needs of Florida's school system. She set to work
organizing a program of action for the upcoming 1913
legislative session, including choosing a committee to work
with her. It included Mrs. Park Trammell of Tallahassee,
Mrs. J.C. Huber of Tampa, Rachel Gaines of Leesburg,
Mar i am Pasteur of Palatka, Mrs. Lee Spear of Fort Lauderdale,
and Mrs. Charles Boneaker of Pensacola. One of the responsi-
bilities of this committee was to raise funds for the Federa-
tion's scholarship, established in 1906, at the Florida
State College for Women at Tallahassee, to train kinder-
Shortly after assuming the chairmanship of the educa-
tion department May met Agnes Ellen Harris of the home eco-
nomics department of the women ' s college. In 1909 Harris
had toured the state on behalf of the Federation and given
a series of lectures on the subject of domestic science.
May recommended that the Federation support Miss Harris in
another endeavor. Rural extension work, being promoted by
the United States Department of Agriculture in conjunction
with the landgrant colleges, was being promoted throughout
the South. One aspect of the work was to urge countxes
to promote boys' and girls' corn and tomato clubs. There
were also potato, cotton, poultry, and hog clubs. These
clubs were supposed to teach children, ages ten to eighteen,
the rudiments of sowing, harvesting, canning, and marketing
produce. Each child was to till a tenth of an acre and then
market the harvest. By 1912 thirteen Florida counties
had enrolled in the project, and 622 girls had canned 18,000
cans of tomatoes which had been sold for thirteen cents a
can. Anges Harris was the agent in charge of the girls'
clubs and Professor J.W. Vernon of the University of Florida
worked with the boys' organizations.
May was impressed with Miss Harris' work and aware
that she was getting little help from state officials.
With approval from Mrs. Hocker May set up two Federation
prizes, for the girl and boy who achieved the best annual
production record. Each prize was worth $50.00 toward the
winner's education. May persuaded officials of Cohen
Brothers Department Store in Jacksonville to donate the sum
for the boy's prize. She v/rote each Federation club and
urged them to donate to the girl's prize fund. She also
asked each club to sponsor a tomato club in their respective
counties. She herself helped establish a club in Middle-
burg near the Jennings' Clay County farm. The awarding
of the prizes was a success and the prizes were continued
until the nineteen-twenties at which time agricultural
extension work was curtailed and the canning club program
The Federation's education department also worked
in other ways to improve public education. In February
1913 May sent a letter to each Federation club outlining
her goals. She stated that her committee would direct every
effort toward establishing vocational education throughout
the state. As a first step each woman's club should make
the school building in its own locality a social center.
They should secure a good storyteller and establish "story
hours" for the small children. They should use the building
for fairs and exhibits. They should assist in establishing
tomato clubs. They should help fund the prizes and the
kindergarten scholarship at the woman's college. She
pledged that her committee would work with the legislation
committee to secure an increased appropriation for the
state reform school at Marianna, and that it would work to
get women appointed to school boards. She urged each club
to work for better school buildings and playgrounds, and to
endorse medical inspection and school hygiene programs.
May's vigorous approach to the committee's work surprised
many of the clubwomen; they were used to more lethargic
leadership. Elizabeth Hocker wrote her, "You certainly have
revolutionized our Education department." May s enthusi-
asm often had the desired effect and inspired her colleagues
to take action. One such woman informed May that by herself
she had inspected her local schools and had found "many
faults." The writer also told May she was so interested
in the education work that she was unable to "control her
tongue" whenever she saw something that needed improvement."
Another clubwomen wondered if the education department was
also planning to work for women's suffrage, for she thought
it would be a "super subject" for the committee to tackle.
On March 28, 1912, May was in Gainesville to address
the State Conference of Superintendents, Member's of School
Boards, and High School Principals. Of the eighty-four
speakers at the three-day conference, she was the only woman
and the last on the agenda. She told the educators what
the Federation was doing to aid education, called for better
teacher training, higher salaries, longer school terms,
smaller classes, uniform textbooks, school libraries and
playgrounds, compulsory education, and women serving on
school boards. She described the tomato and corn clubs and
urged cooperation. She also urged the men to back improve-
ments at the Marianna reform school. She was given a stand-
ing ovation, and presented with a bouquet of flowers, and
was escorted from the dais by William Sheats.
When the 1913 Legislative session convened May and
other clubwomen were ready for it. The memorial they sub-
mitted was no timid document; it included a list of fifteen
demands which the women wanted the legislators to act upon.
The women called for amendments to strengthen the 1911
juvenile court law; a $25,000 per annum appropriation for
the reform school; creation of a state board of charities;
enactment of a comprehensive child labor bill; a prohibi-
tion against newspapers printing gory details of murders,
executions, and suicides; establishment of a hospital for
the feeble-minded; a law prohibiting placement of adver-
tising signs on trees, telephone poles, fences, and other
structures along public highways; a bill allowing women to
be elected to school boards; a law giving women the right
to enter into contracts relating to their ov/n property; a
law making wife and child desertion a felony; and one which
would establish certification of nurses.
May and her colleagues worked closely with the Flori-
da Child Labor Committee, a new organization which had been
organized to promote child labor legislation. It was headed
by John W. Stagg of Orlando, Marcus Fagg of Jacksonville,
and Mary E. Randall of Lawtey, a Federation member and
close friend of May's. This committee and the clubwomen
organized "parlour meetings" to promote their legislation.
They sponsored exhibits and lantern slide shows to educated
the public about the issues. And while the legislature
was in session they mounted an active letter writing campaign.
In addition, Julia Lathrop of the National Children's Bureau
in Washington was brought to Florida for a series of lectures.
Ion Farris and St. Elmo Acosta of the Duval delegation intro-
duced and guided the child labor bill through the legis-
lature. May knew both men well. Acosta had been one of
the councilmen who had accompanied her on the publicized
inspection tour of the Jacksonville jail. Mrs. Farris was
a clubwoman. Mrs. Frank E. Jennings, head of the Federa-
tion's legislation committee, led the women's lobbying
effort in Tallahassee. May, also spent time there. She
sent copies of the Federation's memorial to the state's
five major newspapers, and upon publication she personally
distributed copies of the papers to each member of the legis-
lature. Fagg and his associates also worked at the capitol.
When the session was over many goals had been achieved.
The 1913 legislature voted a sizeable appropriation
of $65,000 for two years for the reform school and reor-
ganized the facility, fired the management, and renamed
the place the Florida Industrial School for Boys. The
legislature also passed the most comprehensive child labor
law that had ever been enacted in the state, a wife and
child desertion bill, and a measure authorizing women to
serve as county probation officers. It also enacted laws
regulating the certification of nurses, strengthening of
the state's pure food and drug law, creating the office of
rural school inspector, raising the standards leading to
teacher certification, and authorizing special taxing dis-
tricts to issue bonds for public education. In addition to
these progressive measures it enacted conservation laws
which established a game and fish commission and protected
wild birds and animals, including the robin. To May's
personal satisfaction the lawmakers appropriated $3,000 to
aid the corn and tomato clubs. It was a very impressive
record, but, of course, May knew that there was more work
to do. Women were still denied full property or legal
rights, they could still not hold elective office in the
state, and there was yet no compulsory education law.
After the session May returned to her club and civic
activities. With the help of Caroline Brevard of Talla-
hassee, she secured a United Daughters of the Confederacy
scholarship for the Woman's College, to be awarded to the
girl who was the runner-up in the Federation's kindergarten
scholarship selection. In June Governor Trammell appointed
May Florida's delegate to the seventeenth Child Welfare
Conference of the Parents' and Teacher's Association held
in Boston. Because of family obligations she could not
go but gave her proxy to the secretary of the Florida
Federation of Mother's Clubs, Mrs. Mary P. Brownell, who
reported back to the education committee. Selected a
delegate to the National Hygiene Congress in Buffalo a month
later, May was again unable to go and this time she gave
her proxy to the medical inspector of the Duval County
On October 10, 1913, May spoke before the Duval County
School Board at a public meeting which was called to discuss
the creation of a taxing district and the issuance of school
bonds. She cited figures, statistics, and laws to show that
the money was direly needed and that the proposed tax
district was the proper means by which to raise the funds.
Other activities transpired to make 1913 a busy
year for May Jennings. She became a sponsor of Pi Beta
Phi sorority at Stetson University, where her son was
enrolled; and attended several of the sorority's functions.
She joined a committee to promote the improvement of the
Columbia College library in Lake City, and she worked for
the Jacksonville Infant Welfare Society. She accompanied
Elizabeth Hocker to Washington, D.C., to attend a General
Federation board meeting and the convention of the National
Council for Social Centers. She wrote an article on educa-
tion for a special woman's issue of the Miami Herald .
She helped push a resolution through the Jacksonville
city council regulating midwifery in the city. With the
help of the Jacksonville Equal Franchise League, she worked
to get a Sunday "blue law" passed by the council. A modi-
fied law was adopted. She organized the Jacksonville
Woman's Club "legislation day" and then in December she
and her husband boxed and sent crates of oranges from their
private groves to President Woodrow Wilson and all the mem-
bers of his cabinet.
It was also a year of trials and sorrow for the
family. The Brooksville property demanded much of May's
time. A large pecan orchard and strawberry patch had to be
managed. Her brother's alcoholism worsened during the year
and precipitated several crises, and her brother-in-law,
Charles Jennings, took ill and died at the Jennings home
in November. Perhaps she yearned, like her friend Lena
Shackleford, "for the good old Brooksville days when they
lived the simple life." But May never had time to look
back; she was too busy making plans for the new year.
The whole of 1914 was a whirlwind of activity. The
pace May set for herself was terrific. In January she
secured the woman's club's building for a lecture and slide
show, which was presented by Dr. Eugene Swope, field agent
of the Florida Audubon Society. That same month she met
with Mrs. Frank E. Jennings and her legislation committee
to discuss the new year. The legislature would not be in
session, but both agreed that there was much publicity work
and friendly preparatory lobbying which could be done. May
Jennings and Minerva Jennings, while rivals, respected
each other's opinions and abilities and cooperated with one
another for the good of the Federation.
In February May attended the third annual Conference
of Florida Charities and Corrections in Gainesville. Marcus
Fagg was then secretary of the organization. She also
attended that month the first annual meeting of the Jackson-
ville Infant Welfare Society and journeyed to Tallahassee
for a Federation board meeting and to confer with Miss
Harris. Later she led a discussion at the Jacksonville
VJoman's Club on practical politics. She travled to Deland
for a Pi Phi social function.
Even with her travels, conventions, and speaking
engagements May maintained a volumnious correspondence. She
had become the defacto president of the Federation because
Mrs. Hocker did not like to travel and was not as good a
public speaker. May began to attend to the organization's
many needs. Scores of letters arrived almost daily, seek-
ing advice on how to form a woman's club, how to become a
member of the Federation, how to set up an education com-
mittee, how to present a public meeting, and so on. It
was more than one woman could handle and she had to employ
a stenographer to help out. She paid the woman's wages
and the Federation furnished supplies and postage.
May received many requests to speak and appear at
club functions. Most of these invitations had to be
rejected; there was just not enough time to do everything.
While all correspondence was conscientiously answered, May
selected her personal appearances carefully. Only the
more important functions were attended, although she tried
to visit as many clubs as possible as she traveled around
In March 1914, May spoke for the second time before
the convention of superintendents and leading Florida
educators. The meeting was held in Fort Myers. Mrs. Edna
Fuller of Orlando, chairman of the Federation's civics
department, also was on the program. May called for
cooperation between the Federation and state educators.
She outlined the work of the Federation's education depart-
ment, described the women's hopes for the coming years, and
put the men on notice that it was time to "agitate force-
fully for a compulsory education lav/. " While in Fort
Myers she was feted by the local woman's club and toured
Thomas Edison's winter home.
Upon her return to Jacksonville May continued her
busy schedule. She helped Marcus Fagg conduct the Children's
Home Society's annual Re-Union Week, and invited Marie Ran-
dall of Lawtey, chairman of the Federation's social condi-
tions department, to speak before Jacksonville clubwomen.
Later in the month she met with Jacksonville probation
officials about the local juvenile delinquency problems and
she presented a petition, to retain the city's school nurses,
to the school board. The nurses were retained. Finally,
she wrote all Federation clubs urging them to wire their
Congressmen in support of the Smith-Lever Agricultural
Extension bill which was mired in the Congress.
In June, 1914, May attended her first General
Federation convention. It was held in Chicago and she
enjoyed it immensely, especially meeting intelligent, hard-
working women like herself who were committed to progres-
sive change. She heard addresses by Jane Addams, of Hull
House fame, and by Carrie Chapman Catts, the feminist.
After the convention the Jennings took a brief holiday in
North Carolina. Upon returning to Jacksonville May received
a telegram summoning her to Bar Harbor, Maine, where her
father, Austin Mann, was gravely ill. He died shortly after
her arrival. The funeral was held at the Jennings' home
and interment was in Evergreen Cemetery. Hundreds of
prominent people from around the state attended the services.
May bore her loss with dignity and fortitude, but
she missed her papa terribly, for the two had remained very
close to the end. By the middle of October, however, she
was again deep into clubwork. The twentieth annual Federa-
tion convention was only a month away, and she was busy
preparing a canning demonstration and an education exhibit
for the delegates. The 1914 convention, which was held at
Lakeland, was a watermark event. The Florida Federation of
Women's Clubs was now almost twenty years old. It was a
mature and viable organization; few officials failed to
recognize its political strength. Scores of women's clubs
from around the state now belonged to the organization,
though there were still a few maverick holdouts in the
The convention convened on Tuesday, November 19, in
the Lakeland civic auditorium. The women filled the hotels
and overflowed into private homes. Receptions were held in
the Kibler Hotel. Many delegates displayed the green and
gold ribbons of the Federation. The women were reminded
that no hats were to be worn in the auditorium so that
everyone would have an unrestricted view of the proceedings.
After the usual welcomes and greetings by local officials,
a piano concerto was performed by a clublady and Mrs.
Hocker gave her farewell address.
Official business began the following day. Reports
from seventy-two clubs described the achievements and
successes all over Florida. May's report on the education
department was fourteen typewritten pages long. There were
also talks by William Sheats, Dr. J.Y. Porter, and Judge
William H. Baker. Election of a new slate of officers
occurred on the third and last day of the meeting. There
was no doubt about who would be named president. May
Jennings was the unanimous choice.
A cheer rose from the auditorium when it was announced
that she had won the election. She gave a short speech and
the delegates began immediately discussing their legisla-
tive program. There was a call for a compulsory education
law, establishment of a state forestry board, a state board
of charities, and a state bureau of vital statistics. Also
desired was a girls' industrial training school, a state
tuberculosis sanitorium, a school for the feeble-minded, a
law allowing women to serve on school boards, and passage
of a prohibition amendment. A banquet was held that night
in the hotel. The mantle was passed. May took her pledge
to fulfill her duties faithfully and to uphold the objectives
of the Federation. She was now forty-two years old and the
most politically powerful woman in the state; she knew what
to do with that power.
Notes to Chapter VI
The Woman's Club, Jacksonville, 1897-98, Yearbook ,
n.p. For a history of the club see Noble, Woman ' s Club of
Jacksonville, Golden Jubilee Issue: 1897-1947 (Jacksonville,
2 Ibid .
Jacksonvxlle Dixie , November 8, 1912.
Blackman, The Women of Florida , I., p. 128.
Sanford Herald , undated, quoted in biographical
sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919. MMJ Papers, Box 16.
"Railroad Resolution," Jacksonville Woman's Club,
July 19 06. MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Jacksonville Metropolis , July 24, 1906.
Ibid . , November 23, 1907.
Janie Smith Rhyne, Our Yesterday (Marianna, Florida,
1968) , n.p.
Jacksonville clubwomen began work to secure a juvenile
court system in the state in 1906. See Jacksonville Metro -
polis , November 15, 19 06.
"Memorial to the Legislature," April, 1907. MMJ
Papers, Box 3.
Laws of Florida , 1907, Chapter 5686, No. 91. The
1901 legislature had passed a child .labor bill but it was
weak and ineffective.
"Resolution," Jacksonville Woman's Club, March 20,
19 09. MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Gilchrist, a bachelor, and his mother were frequent
guests in the Jennings' Jacksonville home. At his inaugural
ball Gilchrist danced the first dance with May Jennings. It
was noted that she wore the same gown she had worn to her
husband's inaugural ball. Jacksonville Metropolis , January
6, 19 09.
"Memorial on the Child Labor Lav;," Jacksonville
Woman's Club. MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 139.
17 m ,
Telegram. May Jennings to Mrs. Charles A. Cay 
MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Jacksonville Metropolis , November 22, 1907.
Ibid . , November 27, 1907.
Ibid., February 10, 1908. Also see Paul S. George,
"A Cyclone Hits Miami: Carrie Nation's Visit to the Kicked
City," Florida Historical Quarterly , LVIII, October, 1979,
Jacksonville Metropolis , December 19, 1908.
Ibid . , January 27, 1909.
"Report of Jail Committee," May 22, 1911. MMJ
Papers, Box 3.
Jacksonville PAR (n.d.), n.p.
Charter , Jacksonville Y.W.C.A., February 11, 1911.
MMJ Papers, Box 3.
May Jennings to W.S. Jennings, February 19, 1911.
MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Letty M. Fifield, History of Jacksonville Y.W.C.A.
(Jacksonville, 1950) , p. l77~ ' ~
Young Women's Christian Association, 1912-13 , Year-
book (Jacksonville, n.d.); for short histories of the Jack-
sonville YWCA see Jacksonville Flo rida Times-Union, February
12, 1950, March 25, 1951.
Speech, "Personal Service." MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , December 13, 1912.
Susan Wight to May Jennings . MMJ Papers,
Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 141.
Edna Fuller to May Jennings  . MMJ Papers,
Box 3; Lucretia Mote to May Jennings, May 15, 1913. MMJ
Papers, Box 3.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, March 1, 1913.
Mother's Clubs, organized during the first decade
of the twentieth-century, were the forerunners of Parent-
Florida School Exponent , XVII, June, 1910, p. 12.
The 1914 Smith-Lever Act made rural extension work
one of the nation's domestic priorities.
"Education Committee Report," F.F.W.C., February,
1913. MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Agnes E. Harris to May Jennings, February 15, 1913.
MMJ Papers, Box 3.
"Education Committee Report," F.F.W.C. February,
1913. MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Elizabeth Hocker to May Jennings, August 27, 1913.
MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Mary Brownell to May Jennings, October 19, 1913.
MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Katherine Boyles to May Jennings, December 6, 1913.
MMJ Papers , Box 3 .
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , March 30, 1913.
"Memorial," Jacksonville Woman's Club, April, 1913.
MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Emily Howard Atkins, "The 1913 Campaign for Child
Labor in Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly XXXVI,
"Legislation Committee Report," Jacksonville Women's
Club, May, 1913. MMJ Papers, Box 3.
Miami Herald , August 7, 1913.
Lena Shackleford to May Jennings, October 20, 1913.
MMJ Papers, Box 3.
50 Speech, "Practical Politics," February 12, 1914.
MMJ Papers, Box 4.
Speech before Florida Education Association annual
convention, March 12, 1914. MMJ Papers, Box 4.
Program, GFWC, Biennial Convention, Chicago, 1914.
MMJ Papers, Box 4.
MADAM PRESIDENT AND THE OLD-GIRL NETWORK
Under May Jennings' guidance the Florida Federation
of Women's Clubs increased in numbers and in political
strength. During her three year tenure fifty-nine new clubs
joined the Federation, and its membership rose from 5,24 6
to 9,16 3. The Federation became one of the state's largest
organizations. Its goals during May's first year as presi-
dent were those that had been determined at the Lakeland
convention. To this list was quietly added one other, which
had been on the Federation's books since 1905. It was the
conservation resolution which called for the preservation
of a Royal Palm hammock on Paradise Key, an Everglades islet
twelve miles southwest of Homestead in Dade County. As soon
as May's election as president was confirmed, clubwomen
from South Florida, who were attending the convention, ap-
proached her to urge her to revive the resolution and join
them in an effort to save the endangered hammock. These
women were led by Mary Barr Munroe , wife of the distinguished
author Xirk Munroe, and by Edith Gifford, wife of John
Gifford, former professor from Cornell University and a
forestry expert who now lived in Coconut Grove.
The women spoke to May about the long forgotten and
moribund Federation resolution to preserve the key. They
described the magnificent stand of Royal Palms and lush
tropical vegetation which grew on the key, and told her
about past efforts to preserve the hammock which had been
undertaken by their husbands and other naturalists and
scientists including H.P. Rolfs, forestry professor at the
University of Florida; N.L. Britton, director of the New
York Botanical Garden; Charles Simpson, operator of a
private botanical garden in Dade County; Edward Simmonds,
chief botanist for the agriculture department in Dade
County; David Fairchild, who headed the United States
Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction in Coconut
Grove; and James K. Small, curator of the New York Botani-
cal Garden. Over the years each of these men had visited
Paradise Key to admire and study its palms and vegetation,
and since 1893 they had been trying to get the national
government to preserve the hammock. Now in 1914 it was
more imperative than ever that something be done, for the
hammock was in danger of being destroyed. Surveyors and
road crews were at that very moment mapping the area for
future development. Flagler's Key West extension lay only
a few miles east of the key, and a road from Homestead to
Flamingo was in the planning stages.
May was captivated by what she heard from the women
and was moved by their pleas for help. She had never visited
the key, but she had always liked South Florida and was her-
self at that time drawing up plans for the construction of
a vacation home on the Jennings' property in Miami. She
knew from her earlier travels with her husband to inspect
the dredges and drainage canals that the area was beginning
to be affected by the encroachment of modern society. She
realized that the construction of roads into the interior
would probably mean that much of the wild and serenely
beautiful Everglades would be lost forever. Then and there,
only hours after her election as president of the Federation,
she decided to make the preservation of Paradise Key one
of the main goals of her administration. Her decision was
to have historic and far-reaching consequences for Florida
and was to cause her to dedicate much of her life to the
effort of saving the key and the surrounding Everglades.
The decision launched her upon a political, economic, and
public relations struggle which was to span thirty-three
years. But, in 1914 the future lay far away, and May was
confident that the Federation could save the key. She had
no illusions, however, that the job would be easy.
Before May's tenure as Federation president reached
an end, many of the organization's major goals would be
achieved, for under her guidance the Federation would wield
even greater effective political power. May Jennings was
the type of bold, politically adroit leader that the
organization needed. She was to make use of one of the
Federation's most interesting and important characteristics,
its unique old-girl network, a framev/ork of statewide
friendships among the clubwomen, many of whom were related
to the state's most powerful male business, political, and
civic leaders. This network, which had been building in
the Federation for nearly two decades, was used very effec-
tively during May's administration. While it had always
been present to some extent, it had not been used very much
by past presidents. May could not ignore the Federation's
most important and only real political weapon — its family
and friendship connections. To outside observers the
Federation was a seemingly weak organization composed of
tea drinking, non-voting citizens who could not even hold
public office or exercise much political leverage. But
during May's tenure the Federation was to use the old-girl
network to good advantage to gain access into the state's
highest circles of power.
All that an aggressive and perceptive Federation
president needed to make contact with a particular official
or business leader was to call upon the Federation network.
Through it one could gain entre into the governor's mansion,
the legislature, the courts, state boards and commissions,
county commissions, and town and village councils. Of
course this entrance was achieved in an unorthodox and
roundabout way, but it was effective, for no Federation
tactic ever proved more potent than the one that reached
the state's leaders through their families. Arguments and
persuasions which came from female relatives--mothers , wives,
and daughters — often proved irresistible. Understandably
the men might be more receptive to the urgings of their own
women folk than to demands coming from nameless numbers of
clubwomen. The personal approach inherent in the old-girl
network proved critical to the Federation's success. If
the men could not believe and respect the opinions and
desires of their own wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters,
who were Federation members, then who could they believe?
At times, even the southern "cult of womanhood" worked in
the Federation's favor, for because of it the men were
disposed to give the women respectful, if gruding, audiences.
But, it was the old-girl network that really aided the
Federation and which May relied upon the most often to
gain "the ear" of Florida officials and politicians.
Of course, not every male in government said yes to
the women in his family, whether or not they happened to be
Federation members. Most remained stolid and unsympathetic
to the women's goals, but enough of them were softened by
the approaches of their female relatives to make a real
difference. On many occasions it was these first family
contacts which smoothed the way for May ahd her officers
and allowed them to present the Federation's case or do its
lobbying work. The use of the network was not a rigid or
elaborate scheme used by the women to trick the men into
acquiescing. There was nothing sinister about it. It was
the natural, logical, and undevious use of a political tool
which was obvious for the women. The charge of using "woman-
ly wiles" on such a grand scale to gain support for Federa-
tion goals cannot be sustained, but the accusation that
the women used all of their family connections to reach the
right people and further their cause is true. Men had
always used an old-boy network; indeed, politics sometimes
seemed to be no more than a system based entirely upon
friendships, contacts, and loyalties. Thus, the women were
using something which had finally become available to them
as it had been for so long to the men.
The well-placed family connections that the old-girl
network brought to the Federation were impressive and could
not be denied. During her three year tenure as Federation
president May called upon the services of perhaps 100 of the
organization's most prominent members, each of whom was
wife, mother, or daughter of a governor, legislator, supreme
court justice, congressman, state official, judge, journalist,
university president, businessman, pioneer developer, or
local official. For instance, those who served on the
Federation's all-important legislation committee during May's
administration included Mary Wright Drane (Lakeland) , wife
of Herbert J. Drane, former member of the state House and
a state Senator during the 1913 and 1915 sessions; Allie
Farris (Jacksonville), wife of Ion L. Farris, ex-speaker of
the House and member of the Senate during the 1915 and 1917
sessions; Ella Burford (Ocala) , wife of Robert A. Burford,
former member of the House and a Marion County official;
Dycie Sweger (Live Oak) , wife of Roy L. Sweger, who edited
the Gadsen County Times and later served in both the Florida
House and the Senate; Lena Shackleford, wife of Thomas Shackle-
ford, who served on the supreme court from 1902 until 1917;
Ruby Whitfield (Tallahassee) , wife of C. Talbot Whitfield,
private secretary to Governors Gilchrist and Trammel 1; Minerva
Jennings (Jacksonville), wife of Frank E. Jennings, member of
the State Board of Control and later a member of the House;
Margaret Young (Jacksonville) , wife of William B. Young, the
state's judge advocate general and later a House member; Jessie
Hilburn (Palatka) , wife of Samuel Hilburn who served in the
190 8 House and the 1911 Senate; Bell Rood (New Smyrna) , wife
of Henry Rood, owner of the New Smyrna News; Rose Wilson
(Sarasota) , wife of C. V. Wilson, former member of the 1903,
1905, and 1907 House and owner of the Sarasota Times ; Maggie
Davis (Perry), wife of William B. Davis, Taylor County judge;
Ida Dunn (Tallahassee), wife of Royal C. Dunn, state railroad
commissioner; Lina L'Engle Barnett (Jacksonville), wife of
Bion H. Barnett, founder of the Barnett banking empire;
Catherine Phillips (Jacksonville), wife of Henry B. Phillips,
circuit judge of Duval County; Eugenia Roberts (Key West),
wife of E. 0. Roberts, ex-House member and Monroe County
state attorney; Ninah Cummer (Jacksonville) , wife of Arthur
G. Cummer, co-owner of the state's largest lumber mill and
naval stores company; Frances Anderson (Jacksonville), activist,
and daughter of prominent attorney Herbert L. Anderson;
and Antoinette Frederick (Miami), widow of that city's first
civil engineer, attorney, and land developer, John S.
During May's tenure nearly all of the Federation's
committees had members whose family connections were promi-
nent. Her major officers and board of directors included:
Mary Gorenson Moore (Miami) , wife of T. Vivian Moore, devel-
oper, ex-legislator, and South Florida's "pineapple king";
Florence Cay (Tallahassee) , wife of Charles A. Cay, Leon
County legislator and civic leader ("Flo" Cay, a confidant
of May's, ran a boarding house favored by legislators and
was therefore able to keep abreast of the public and not
so public happenings at the Capitol) ; Ora Minium (Jackson-
ville) , wife of Harry B. Minium, member of the State Board
of Control; Kate V. Jackson (Tampa) , daughter of John Jack-
son , one of the founders of that city; Elizabeth Hocker
(Ocala) , daughter-in-law of William Hocker, state supreme
court justice from 1903 to 1915; Ella Brown (Green Cove
Springs) , wife of T.J. Brown, ex-legislator and civic
leader; and Lucy Wamboldt (Jacksonville) , wife of Nelson C.
Wamboldt, city councilman.
Dollie Hendley (Dade City) , wife of Jefferson A.
Hendley, Pasco County pioneer and former legislator, served
on the Federation's civics committee, as did Mrs. John E.
Avery (Pensacola) , who v/as married to a member of the
House. The Federation press, i.e. publicity, committee
was equally well-staffed. It included Nelle Worthington
(Tampa), who was married to Justin E. Worthington, editor
of the Tampa Times ; and Majory Stoneman Douglas (Miami) ,
whose father was editor and co-owner of the Miami Herald .
Conservation was one of the Federation's largest
and most active committees, and it was concerned with bird
protection, forestry, waterways, good roads, and Seminole
Indians. The well-connected women who served on this
committee included Julia Hanson (Fort Myers) , wife of a
pioneer doctor and mother of a state bird warden and Seminole
Indian agent; Mrs. James Paul (High Springs), whose husband
served in the 1915 House; Edith Gifford (Coconut Grove) ,
wife of John Gifford, author and forestry expert; Maria
Ingraham (St. Augustine) , wife of James E. Ingraham, presi-
dent of Flager's Model Land Company; Mary Barr Munroe
(Coconut Grove) , authoress and wife of Kirk Munroe; Eliza-
beth McDonald (Stuart) , wife of Jackson McDonald, mayor of
his town; Ethelyn Overstreet (Orlando) , wife of Moses
Over street, banker and future state senator; Mrs. W.J.
Tweedell (Homestead) , wife of a Dade County Commissioner;
Ivy Stranahan (Fort Lauderdale), whose husband, Frank
Stranahan, was a pioneer developer and Seminole Indian trader,
Minnie Moore Willson (Kissimmee) , whose husband James Will-
son, was president of the Florida Waterway Association and
a co-founder, along with her, of the Friends of Florida
Seminoles organization; Ella Dimick (Palm Beach) , who was
married to Captain Elisha N. Dimick, former House and Senate
member and a pioneer banker and developer; Eugenia Davis
(Tallahassee), whose husband, George I. Davis, had played
a prominent role at the 1885 Constitution Convention and
was Leon County's postmaster; and, finally, Jane Fisher
(Miami) , wife of Carl G. Fisher, entrepreneur and developer
of Miami Beach.
The Federation's education committee was composed of
Sudie B. Wright (Lakeland) , whose husband, George Wright,
had founded Wright Coffee Importing Company; Mrs. T.J.
McBeath (Jasper) , whose husband was past editor of the
Florida School Exponent ; Allison Locke (Jacksonville) ,
daughter of Judge James W. Locke, of the Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeals; Mrs. Walter Corbett (Jacksonville) , whose
husband headed Prudential Insurance Company; and Virginia
Darby Trammell (Lakeland-Tallahassee) , wife of Park Trammell,
the governor of Florida.
Iva Sproule-Baker (Miami) , who with her husband
owned a prominent music academy, served on the Federation's
music committee, along with Lucretia Mote (Leesburg) , a
graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, and wife
of E.H. Mote, ex-legislator and central Florida citrus
tycoon. The public health committee contained three female
medical doctors, Dr. Ellen Lowell Stevens (Jacksonville) ,
Dr. Grace Whitford (Ozona) , and Dr. Sarah E. Wheeler
(Lakeland) , and one woman dentist, Dr. Emma Dickinson
(Orange City). The Federation's home economics committee
was served by Pattie Monroe (Miami) , wife of A. Leight
Monroe, prominent doctor and civic leader; Mrs. V7.T. Gary
(Ocala) , whose husband served in the state Senate; Agnes
Ellen Harris (Tallahassee) dean of the home economics
department at Florida State College for Women; and by Mrs.
A.W. Young (Vero) , whose husband had served in both the
state House and Senate.
May also felt free to call upon Lucy Blackman (Winter
Park) , wife of William F. Blackman, president of Rollins
College; Katherine B. Tippetts (St. Petersburg) , owner of
the Belmont Hotel and a well-known authoress; Annie Broward
(Jacksonville) , wife of former governor Napoleon Bonaparte
Broward and now head of a large tugboat company; Soledad
Safford (Tarpon Springs) , widow of the former governor of
Arizona; Dorothy Conradi (Tallahassee) , wife of Edward
Conradi, president of the Florida State College for V7omen;
Lula Paine Fletcher (Jacksonville) , wife of United States
Senator Duncan U. Fletcher; Eloise Hulley (Deland) , wife of
Lincoln Hulley) , president of Stetson University; Elizabeth
Skinner (Dunedin) , daughter of Lee Skinner, west coast
pioneer and owner of the state's largest citrus grove; Edna
Fuller (Orlando), who was to become Florida's first female
legislator; and Halle Uarlow (Orlando) , wife of Picton
Warlow, judge of the Orange County criminal court.
The old-girl network presented a formidable and
powerful pressure group. In addition to the core of the
network there were hundreds of Federation rank and file
members who were related to local businessmen, bankers,
political leaders, and city and county officials. Thus if
one examines the network as just outlined one can better
understand its potency for among the women's families are
one sitting governor, three ex-governors, one United States
Senator, nineteen state legislators, six prominent jour-
nalists, two state supreme court justices, one state rail-
road commissioner, two members of the state Board of Control,
three state judges, a private secretary to two governors,
three college presidents, and a host of prominent business-
men, bankers, and civic leaders. The network was indeed a
part of Florida's establishment. It is easy to see why the
Federation could get many things accomplished.
As soon as May returned to Jacksonville from the
Lakeland meeting that had elected her president of the
Federation she began her work. Her first use of the
Federation's old-girl network was on behalf of Paradise
Key. The women from South Florida had notified her that
Flagler's widow Mary Kenan Flagler, had offered to donate
960 acres of Paradise Key and surrounding land to help
preserve the hammock. News of this offer had been relayed
by James Ingraham to Kirk Munroe, and hence to Mary Munroe ,
an avid conservationist and bird lover. May immediately
recognized the significance of this offer and developed a
plan for the Federation to save the hammock. She felt that
with the Flagler gift the state might also be willing to
donate the remaining land for a park provided it would not
have to assume maintenance of it. Could the Federation
maintain and operate a public park? It was a bold idea.
In early December, 1914, May wrote a letter to
Federation officers describing the hammock, setting forth
her plan to develop it as a park, and asking for opinions.
If they approved she wanted them to accompany her to Talla-
hassee to speak to Governor Trammell and other state
officials. She knew she would need the support of the
Federation's officers. Many agreed that preservation of
the hammock would be a fine civic gesture, but several of
the women questioned the feasibility of the Federation alone
assuming such a financial burden. This kind of opposition
was to crop up several years hence and seriously jeopardize
the project. Fortunately, the doubters were in the
minority, and May proceeded with her plans, including a
request for a $1,000 annual state appropriation for the
park. When no one volunteered to accompany her to Talla-
hassee, she went alone. The old-girl network smoothed
her way, however. Florence Cay telephoned Virginia Trammell
to, as Mrs. Cay described it, "touch upon the subject of
the hammock." Mrs. Trammell was cautious but encouraging
and said she would speak to the governor. This was just
the first of many instances v/here May would make use of
the Federation's network to assess attitudes and contact
May proceeded with her visit to Tallahassee. She
also scheduled a trip to South Florida to see the hammock
for herself. As Rose Lewis, of Fort Pierce and a Federa-
tion vice-president, remarked, the new president "did set
a terrific pace. " During the second week in December May
journeyed by train to Tallahassee v/here she apparently
stayed with the Trammells in the governor's residence. A
Tallahassee paper reported: "Mrs. William S. Jennings, the
brilliant wife of former Governor Jennings ... is making
a brief visit to the Capitol city, and is being charmingly
entertained at the Governor's Mansion by Mrs. Park Tram-
mell." While in the city May also met with Agnes Harris
at the Women's College to discuss home economics and the
extension work the Federation was sponsoring. Few, however,
knew of the real purpose for the visit. Florence Cay accom-
panied May when she met with the various cabinet members
who were all trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund.
Trammell must have been won over, for he promised to present
the Federation's request at the next meeting of the trustees.
On December 23, the trustees approved a letter addressed to
the Dade County commission, authorizing it to take action
to prevent trespassing on the hammock land owned by the state.
Mr. W.J. Tweedell, one of the Commissioners, had a wife
who was a prominent clubwoman in Homestead and a friend of
May ' s -
The following day, the trustees voted to grant tenta-
tively the Federation park request, subject to legislative
approval. The trustees planned to visit South Florida in
January, and May, who was apprised of their action, was
asked not to reveal the news to the public until after that
time. Elated over the officials' action, she celebrated a
joyous Christmas. In fact, the trustees did not need
legislative approval to grant and convey the land, but per-
haps the unusual nature of the Federation's request made
them more cautious than usual. Endorsement by the governor
or the trustees was no guarantee that the lawmakers would
give their approval. Only intense lobbying efforts would
The day after Christmas the Jennings family traveled
to Miami for a round of official Federation visits. Much
time was taken up with routine club business, but on Monday,
December 28, accompanied by her husband and son and Mrs.
T.V. Moore, Mrs. A. Leight Monroe, and Mary Barr Munroe,
May journeyed to Paradise Key to see for herself the much
talked-about Royal Palm hammock. The trip must have been
a "bone- jarring" one, since the road out to the key was un-
paved and little more than a boggy cow path, barely passa-
ble by auto during the wet season. Pictures of the region
during that period often show a stranded Model-T hub-high
in mud with the occupants digging and pushing to get it
unstuck. In a letter to Elizabeth Hocker , May referred to
the trip: "The Hammock is entirely surrounded by water, the
palms tower much above the other growth. . . . The women
down in that part of the country are very enthusiastic
over the Park subject."
After the trustees visited the key they notified May
that they approved of the resolution granting the property
to the Federation, and then the news was released to the
public. It was an important event in the history of
Florida conservation because with this action state govern-
ment was changing, quietly but dramatically, its policy.
No matter that the trustees grudgingly approved, or that
they were reluctant to assume any of the care of the pro-
posed park, or that, as some said, the only reason they
concurred was because the land was unfit for anything else.
The decision was ultimately to benefit all of the people,
and the hammock would become Florida's first state park,
albeit privately owned. The park would be an important
step in the establishment of the Everglades National Park
many years hence.
After May received notification of the approval of
the trustees she began mobilizing the Federation. Her
husband drafted a bill to be presented to the legislature,
calling for the state to deed to the Federation 960 acres
to match the 960-acre Flagler grant. It would also provide
$1,000 for maintenance of the park. May and her cohorts
knew that there was much to be done. The public had to be
rallied in support of the project; legislators needed to be
contacted; pamphlets and other material about the proposed
park would have to be printed; speeches had to be given, and
press releases written. There was little available time
as the legislature convened in only two months.
In addition to the park projects May had many other
Federation business matters to attend to. The volume of
her correspondence continued to grow; she was the leader
of an organization with twenty departments, ninety-one clubs,
and 6,000 members. She employed a second parttime steno-
grapher to help not only with her Federation correspondence
but also that relating to her duties as president of the
Springfield Improvement Association, and of the DAR and the
YWCA. She had also been appointed state chairman of the
Belgium Relief Commission with the responsibility of raising
money and goods for war-stricken European refugees. May
labored tirelessly to promote the club movement and to bring
even more women into civic work. She wanted the women of
Florida to become better educated in practical politics and
civic service. She wrote a paper about the Federation and
its work and her views and feelings about women's clubs and
mailed a copy to each unaffiliated club in the state.
During this period she also supervised a statewide
campaign to register births which the Federation had
instituted to alert the public to the need for a bureau of
vital statistics. The actual work was done under the auspice:
of Julia Lathrop, director of the Children's Bureau of the
United States Department of Labor. May also corresponded
with V7illiam Sheats, state superintendent of public instruc-
tion, about education bills to be submitted to the upcoming
legislature. Sheats favored a county-option compulsory
education bill, while May wanted a stronger law that would
compel attendance. She was also working with a Federation
committee on plans to present to state officials on the
rebuilding of the Industrial School for Boys at Marianna,
which had just suffered a major fire. The women favored
construction of a new facility based on the family-style
cottage plan. In addition to all of these matters, May
was working with Agnes Harris, home economist, to prevent
state officials from usurping all the funds that the state
was receiving from the federal Smith-Lever Act. In one
nearby state the local land-grant college had already
announced that only twenty-four per cent of the money would
be allotted to female educational needs, despite the fact
that fifty per cent was designated by lav; for extension
work among rural farm women. Florida women had received
only $2,000 of a $10,000 federal grant. As a prominent and
able speaker May received many requests to lecture before
clubs and organization. She did not have time to accept
all these invitations, but she planned several tours through-
out the state which would enable her to visit many clubs.
May Jennings thrived on work and activity. She
enjoyed what she was doing, and took pride in knowing that
her work was vital to the welfare of her state. She received
encouraging support from hundreds of her sister clubwomen
and this strengthened her determination to achieve her goals.
Humor also helped to alleviate her burdens; she never lost
the ability to laugh at herself or with her club friends.
One lady, upon being appointed to the newly-established
Federation good roads committee, wrote May, "I want to con-
gratulate you on your brilliant choice. As a Good Roads
builder I feel that I shall be an unqualified success. If
I am not it won't be for lack of practice for I am just now
engaged in corduroying the road in front of my place as my
sleeping and waking dreams are disturbed by the racing of
motors trying to pull out of the deep mud holes. I can see
where the County commissioners of my area will have a bad
fifteen minutes if they meet up with me." That was the
kind of dedication and determination May liked to hear.
May was called upon often to solve domestic problems
since many of her colleagues were still not able to pursue
club work without opposition from their families. When one
woman wrote May that her husband was demanding that she
stop her club work, she was told, "I do not think a man has
any right to ask a woman to stay home and do everything for
him. It takes a great deal of conceit to imagine he is so
complete that he can satisfy anybody all in himself. . . .
I am not going to give you up without a struggle, husband
or no. ... I am very belligerent just now. "
As soon as news of the proposed Royal Palm Park was
released to the public May began to enlist support for the
project. She tried to get Washington to declare the hammock
a national bird and wildlife sanctuary, but was unsuccess-
ful in her effort. As the time for the legislative session
approached, she and her officers worked diligently to
finalize the Federation's 1915 legislative program. She
was confident and optimistic about successfully getting the
entire program enacted. She wrote a friend, "I am very
hopeful that we shall succeed in getting many things through
the Legislature for there are a great many clubwomen who
are wives of legislators, who will be on the ground in
Tallahassee to keep in close touch with our bills." The
new chairman of the legislation committee, Jessie McGriff
(Mrs. John McGriff of Jacksonville) , planned to spend the
first weeks of the session in Tallahassee directing the
Federation's lobbying efforts. May, who had a Federation
speking tour planned was to go to the Capitol only after
Mrs. McGriff returned home. Hindsight would show that her
time would have been better spent if she had cancelled the
tour and gone directly to Tallahassee.
When the Federation legislative resolution was ap-
proved copies were sent to the governor, the cabinet, and
all members of the legislature, including Cary Hardee,
speaker of the House (whose wife was a clubwoman), and A.E.
Davis, president of the Senate. The Federation resolution
called for the land grant to establish the park, enactment
of a compulsory education bill, creation of a girls' indus-
trial school, rebuilding of the boys' school at Marianna,
erection of a state tuberculosis hospital, establishment of
a forestry board, a bureau of vital statistics, and a board
of charities, land for the Seminoles, development of roads,
and a law allowing women to serve on school boards. It
was a formidable shopping list.
Assured that all was proceeding without problems, May
departed on her speaking tour. The Federation board of
directors held a meeting at Dade City during that time. At
the meeting the women were invited to St. Leo Abbey and
College where they were entertained by Abbot Charles Mohr .
One amusing bit of correspondence preceded this meeting.
May was informed that only the Abbot could get the women
into the college's buildings. "Who," May asked in jest,
"could get them out?" The reply came, "that after the
women saw the Abbot none would want out." The handsome
Abbot proved to be a charming host and served luncheon to
the clubwomen, then he personally conducted the ladies
"through the buildings where they had the privilege of
viewing the beautiful vestments and symbols and received
special prayers in the chapel." May, who shared her St.
Joseph school days adventures with Abbot Mohr, corresponded
with him for many years.
Unfortunately, all was not going well at Tallahassee.
Jessie McGriff, who was inexperienced at legislative work,
edited the Federation's resolution, and deleted the request
for a $1,000 annual park appropriation. The sum for the
girls' industrial school was also reduced, and a new demand
for free textbooks was inserted. In addition, Minnie Moore
Willson, a long-time champion of the Seminoles, arrived at
the Capitol to lobby for the Indian land grant. Outspoken
and abrasive, she generated resentment among the legisla-
tors by threatening reprisals if the bill was not enacted
and thereby did much damage to the Federation's cause.
May was furious when she was apprised of these actions. Mrs.
McGriff, who was lukewarm to the park project, seemed unaware
of the trouble that had been created, but the lawmakers
were already balking at granting the park land, or the
Seminole grant. Many felt that the Paradise Key acreage
was not good for anything, especially a park.
May wrote chairman McGriff, "If the park tract is so
dense and useless, I do not see why the men are so anxious
to keep it if we are anxious to have it." A letter from
Lena Shackleford written about the woes of lobbying reached
May at Dade City and added to her alarm. Mrs. Shackleford
wrote, "I will be glad to see you back over here, perhaps
you can do something . . . they [the legislators] all look
so kind and promising when we talk to them and then turn
away and forget that we were ever there." With no alter-
native May had to go to Tallahassee. Fences had to be
mended and the credibility of the Federation reestablished.
May's trip to the Capitol appeared successful for
the $1,000 for the park was put back into the bill. She
lobbied Senator Glen Terrell and others on behalf of the
boys' and girls' schools , and she pushed the education, Indian,
and vital statistics bills before the appropriate legislative
committees. She was assured that the measures would pass
without further trouble, but, unfortunately, this was not
so. As soon as she departed Tallahassee the park bill
again ran into trouble. Several of the other bills were
killed outright in committee. May would not give up,
however. She felt personally responsible for the park
proposal. During the last days of the session, when the
outcome seemed dismal, Governor Jennings and son Bryan, who
had just graduated from Stetson University, traveled to
Tallahassee to lobby for the bill. Not only was it a race
against the close of the session, but because of the publicity,
vandals and road crews were digging up many of the palms
and other exotic plants.
The legislature was scheduled to recess June 4, 1915;
it would not meet again for two years. Time was crucial.
May had planned to be in the Capitol up to the last moment
working for the bill, but illness, brought on by severe
exhaustion, kept her at home in Jacksonville. As she
anxiously awaited the outcome, her husband and son remained
at the Capitol to push the measure. Finally on June 2nd
she received a telegram from Bryan: "House passed Park Bill."
The next day her husband wired: "Park Bill passed Senate
midnight." The bill had literally been enacted at the
very last minute, but no matter, for Royal Palm Park was
now more than just a vision.
May was overjoyed; the Federation owned the hammock.
Unfortunately, she soon learned that the appropriation had
been cut out of the bill by its opponents. Without main-
tenance, for all practical purposes, the park was doomed.
How was the Federation to develop a state park for public
purposes with no funding? May, both grateful yet frustrated,
sent letters of appreciation to Herbert Drane and Harry
Goldstein, sponsors of the bill, and to all the others who
had voted for the park as well as other Federation legisla-
tion. Trying to boost everyone's morale, May notified
Federation officers that the paths, lodge, and pavilions
envisioned for the park could still be built. The Federa-
tion would just have to secure the funds somewhere else.
In truth, May had no idea where the money would come from,
but the importance of the project and her inherent optimism
Despite the disappointments, it had been a success-
ful legislative session for the Federation. The boys' indus-
trial school had received adequate funding and a new
cottage plan was adopted for its campus. A girls' indus-
trial school had been created, though it was not well funded
and there was talk of locating it at an old Marion County
prison farm. A county option compulsory education bill was
passed. Several laws promoting good roads were enacted
including one which created the state's first road depart-
ment. A state bureau of vital statistics was established,
and detention homes for delinquent children were mandated
for each county. However, there were failures also. There
was still no forestry board, state tuberculosis hospital,
lands for Seminoles, or a law allowing females to serve on
school boards. But, in general, May was satisfied with the
outcome of the session.
By 1915 the drive for equal suffrage for women was
beginning to develop in Florida, although the state was
never to play a major role in the national suffragette
movement. In 1915 there were several women's rights organi-
zations operating in the state. The first had been organized
in Jacksonville in 1912 by friends of May's, many of whom
were Federation members. This organization, known as the
Florida Equal Franchise League, affiliated itself with the
National American V7oman ' s Suffrage Association. Other
groups soon organized and eventually most of the Florida
leagues united into the Florida Equal Suffrage Association.
Prior to 1918 membership in the various suffrage
leagues in Florida read like a who's who of the Federation
rolls. Dr. Mary Jewett, Mary Bryan (Mrs. William Jennings
Bryan), Annie Broward, and Ivy Stranahan, all took turns
guiding the Florida Equal Suffrage Association. Membership
between the various town and city suffrage leagues and the
Federation became so entwined that in most cases they were
one and the same. On more than one occasion the Federation
and the Florida Equal Suffrage Association shared the place
and date of their yearly conventions, so that the state's
clubwomen could conveniently attend both meetings without
May was especially sympathetic to the goals of the
suffragists, although as president of the Federation she
felt she could make no public endorsement of something which
had not been officially approved by the membership. On
several occasions she was urged to "go public" and support
the movement. Edith Stoner, officer of the Southern States'
Woman's Suffrage Conference, wrote, "You are the one woman
in Florida who can carry your state for suffrage." Mary
Jewett, Federation member from Orlando and friend of Dr.
Anna Shaw, national leader of the National American Woman's
Suffrage Association, also urged May to take a stand. May
did escort Dr. Shaw around Jacksonville when the leader
arrived in the city for a public lecture, but she felt tied
by the views of the rank and file of the Federation who were
opposed to becoming involved in such a controversial sub-
ject as equal suffrage. However, she determined that it
was time to change those views and she believed the Federa-
tion should endorse suffrage. She began to work to those
ends. After the 1915 legislative session adjourned work
on the Federation's other objectives continued. South Flori-
da women managed to get the Dade County Commissioners to
name the new highway to Flamingo in honor of J.E. Ingraham,
who had helped to secure the park land from the legislature
and the Flagler estate. The Federation's civics department
sponsored a statewide cleanup campaign to urge cities to
beautify their parks, public facilities, and roadways.
Beautif ication programs had a long and popular history with-
in the Federation, and it was a logical step for the women
to take an interest in highway beautif ication, especially
since the state was in the beginnings of a "good roads"
boom. A special Federation committee began making plans
to beaufity the Dixie Highway which was being built from
Chicago to Miami. Its route in Florida went from Thomas-
ville, Georgia, to Tallahassee, then to Jacksonville, and
from there down the east coast to Maimi. The Federation
took on the responsibility for the last seventy-eight miles
of the road that ran from Miami, through the park. Gover-
nor Jennings, a member of the Dixie Highway Commission,
and Carl Fisher, whose wife, Jane, was a Federation member,
were the highway's chief promoters. The Federation later
sponsored statewide anti-litter and anti-billboard campaigns.
The Federation sponsored other projects during 1915, includ-
ing the funding of a bed for an indigent patient at Dr.
Hiram Byrd ' s private tuberculosis sanitorium in South
Florida, and the travels and lectures of a home economics
demonstration agent from Stetson University.
Most of May's time was occupied with the park pro-
ject. Besides money, she needed public support. To secure
funds she wrote every newspaper, organization, and indivi-
dual that might be interested in helping the Federation.
Philanthropists such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie,
and Charles Deering were solicited. Thomas A. Edison, a
winter resident of Fort Myers, who May had met, sent $50.00.
Gradually, small amounts of money began to trickle into
the park fund, but it was never enough. Mrs. Flagler's
96 0-acre endowment was secured, and some of the land was
rented out to area farmers. This earned several hundred
During 1915 May took no vacation. In July she
spoke before the State Board of Control on behalf of the
Smith-Lever funds and the girls' industrial school. In August
she held a Federation board meeting at Fort Lauderdale. By
September she was back on the club circuit. One friend
wrote her, "Your energy is colossal, surpassed only by your
ability. " To lighten her burdens Governor Jennings
surprised her in September with a new Welch automobile that
he purchased while on a business trip to New York City.
May was thrilled and wrote to a friend, "The president is
going to ride in style from now on, if she has sense enough
to run the machine." Alas, there was never time to learn
to drive the new automobile even though her son tried to
give her lessons each time he was home from lav; school. It
was many years before May Jennings learned to drive. Her
immediate transportation dilemma was solved 'when, Benny,
the Jennings' houseman and gardener, learned to drive and
became May's chauffeur. On long trips she continued to
travel by train.
The twenty-first annual Federation convention was
held at Deland in November 1915. It marked May's first
year as president of the organization. Over 100 clubwomen
attended. Among those on the program were J.L. Boone,
superintendent of the Boys' Industrial School, Dr. II. W. Cox,
professor of psychology at the University of Florida who
spoke about industrial education, and L.C. Spencer, United
States Indian Agent to the Seminole Indians. May's address
to the convention traced the history of womens ' struggles.
It was filled with platitudes like "Divine Plan," "great
scheme of life," and "Eternal Ideal." It was not one
of her better speeches, but she received a standing ovation
from an appreciative audience. Her official report noted
that during the year she had visited each of the state's
five club sections, held five board of directors meetings,
talked before 101 clubs, had written 1,869 letters, and had
traveled 5,164 miles on club business.
During the meeting a motion supporting equal suffrage
for women and making it an official subject for Federation
study was brought before the convention. After a brief
discussion, at which only token opposition emerged, the
motion was passed. The Federation also voted into member-
ship the Orlando Suffrage League, the state's most active
suffrage organization. Other leagues soon joined making the
Federation Florida's largest organization supporting
suffrage. Now May could speak upon the subject, and she
began to urge all clubs within the Federation to study the
subject of equal suffrage. She knew that it was imperative
that the women be educated to their responsibilities once
they achieved the vote. She also believed that education
would tend to weaken the arguments of those women who opposed
During 1916 May continued to promote suffrage, the
park, lands for the Seminoles, and public health. The
financial plight of the park remained desperate. She tried
to get a United States weather station assigned to the key,
but, there was one nearby in Dade County. A statewide "mile-
of -dimes" campaign was launched, in which cardboard folders,
one foot in length and having slots for twelve dimes, were
distributed. The hope was that the folders laid end-to-end
for one mile would bring in over $6,000. The campaign was
not successful; less than $1,000 was collected. The
Federation secured the services of Charles Mosier as park
caretaker and he began making improvements. He had worked
at "Vizcaya," James Deerings ' Miami estate, and was knowl-
edgeable about the hammock region, having explored it with
Dr. Small and Dr. Fairchild. In March the Mosier family
moved to the park and set up housekeeping in a tent. His
letters to May were filled with accounts of bouts with
mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, torrential rains, scorching
heat, and grassfires. Only a hearty soul who liked what
he was doing could have endured such trials.
Despite the lack of money, work on a lodge at the
park was begun. Mosier also cut paths, constructed picnic
tables, and guided sightseers who drove out to the park to
see what all the fuss was about. May, who referred to the
park as her "great hobby," continued her search for money.
She wrote to E.A. Mcllhenny, tabasco sauce tycoon from
Avery, Louisiana, about raising and selling tropical birds.
She even explored the possibility of President Woodrow Wilson
making the park a national monument, but to no avail. Work
at the park was delayed by slowness in the paving of the
Flamingo highway. Some women thought that amusement rides
at the park would bring in visitors and money, but May
quickly vetoed this idea. She wrote, "If they want a
merry-go-round and shoot-the- shoot let them go to the
beach." When funds were critically low, the old-girl
network was pressed into service. Local clubwomen succeeded
in securing from the Dade County Commissioners a one-year
$1,200 appropriation. Several of the women were married to
commissioners. With this $1,200 and money borrowed from
Federation funds designated for other purposes the lodge
and other improvements were eventually completed.
May spent much time also supervising the Federation's
public health committee, headed by Dr. Grace Whitford of
Ozona. During the year the committee sponsored the sale
of Red Cross seals, a statewide "Baby Week," medical inspec-
tion of schools, the dissemination of information on
communicable diseases, and health exhibits which toured
on a state "health train." It also aided in the hiring
of nurses in fifteen of the State's health districts. Two
members of the committee served on a state commission which
investigated the need for a state institution for the
feeble-minded and the retarded.
Another matter that consumed much of May's time in
1916 was the development of plans to help the Seminole
Indians. Ivy Stranahan, of Fort Lauderdale, was chairman
of the Federation's Indian committee. She and May kept in
close touch and worked to further the passage of the Sears
bill in Congress which Senator Fletcher and Congressman
Sears were backing. It provided for a government grant of
nearly 100,000 acres to the Indians. Factions developed
over what lands to award and how they should be used.
Minnie Moore Willson and others felt that only unspoiled
Everglades acreage, good for hunting, should be granted to
the Seminoles. May and Mrs. Stranahan, as well as the
Bureau of Indian Affairs, argued that the Indians should
receive drained lands that could be used for farming and
grazing cattle. They also favored erection of an industrial
training school for the Indians on the land. Mrs. Willson 's
contentiousness and threats finally alienated many people,
and May broke off Federation cooperation with her.
During 1916 May continued her tours of Florida.
While speaking before clubs and other groups she always
talked about the park, her favorite project. As she once
told Mosier, the park was special, for she "was more fond
of plants and plant growth than anything in the world." 22
She began to make plans for a grand celebration at the park
to take place during the convention the following year,
which was scheduled to be held at Miami. Would there be
anything to celebrate? The park was still woefully short
May's hectic pace continued unabated for the rest
of 1916. She urged the presidents of Stetson University
and the two state universities to make Spanish a requirement
for graduation. She sponsored Charlotte Dye of Birmingham,
Alabama, as matron of the new girls' industrial school,
before the governor and cabinet. She authored a paper en-
titled "Beautif ication of Florida Highways" which was read
at the annual Florida Good Roads Association convention
held in St. Augustine. She secured the Federation's
endorsement of the Keating-Owens child labor bill which was
pending in Congress. And, she attended the General Federa-
tion's biennial convention in New York City in June, 1916,
and saw her resolution calling for beautif ication of the
Dixie Highway passed by the group. Always an ardent gardener
she was pleased when Dr. Henry Nehrling, a South Florida
horticulturist honored her by naming a beautiful new hybrid
amaryllis the "May M. Jennings."
The major event of the Federation's twenty-second
annual convention in Miami in 1916 was the formal dedication
of Royal Palm Park. On November 23 a motorcade of 168 cars,
"Fords, Cadillacs, Maxwells, Overlands, and ever other
kind," left Miami's Halcyon Hotel for the park. Over
1,000 persons attended. May presided. After introductions
and a dedication prayer, the Federation's park committee's
official report was read. Then James Ingraham, guest of
honor, spoke. As reported by the Miami Herald he "made a
most delightful speech, telling in intimate conversational
terms first of his early discovery of Paradise Key, of his
talk with both Mr. and Mrs. Flagler on the subject, of the
title claim made by the railroad and then most whimsically
of Mrs. Jennings' attempts to have a bill put through the
legislature. . . . The difficulties in this line were
depicted, the promises of legislators, the consultation
with the wise old lawyer [Governor Jennings] and the last
indefatigable efforts which resulted in the land being
given, but not the money."
The keynote address was given by Mrs. John D. Sher-
man of Chicago, General Federation Conservation chairman.
She was followed by Dr. Charles T. Simpson who had identi-
fied and tagged the trees. He described the botanical
nature of the park. Then May rose and dedicated the park
with the simple words, "With the power in me vested as
president of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs I
hereby dedicate this Royal Palm Park to the people of
Florida and their children forever. "
Even though the lodge was not yet completed a picnic
luncheon with turkey, ham, salad, and a cola called "Pina-
pola," was served on the grounds. It was a happy crowd that
walked the newly-cut paths that day. Every prominent state
official including the governor had been invited, but none
attended. Present, however, were loyalists who had supported
the park from the beginning. They included Mary and Kirk
Munroe, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Tweedell, Mr. and Mrs. Bion H.
Barnett, Ivy Stranahan, Lucy Blackman, Annie Broward, Dr.
P.H. Rolfs, Florence Cay, Sudie B. Wright, Dollie Hendley,
Iva Sproule-Baker , Mary B. Jewett, Grace Whitford, Mrs.
Harry Minium, Minerva Jennings, Mrs. E.C. Loveland, and
Governor Jennings and Bryan.
After the dedication the women returned to their
Miami convention and took up the matter of suffrage. After
Mary Bryan addressed the women on the subject, an equal
suffrage plank was endorsed and added to the legislation
program. Other speakers at the meeting were Dr. E. M.
Nighbert, who gave a talk on eradication of the cattle
fever tick, and Bradford Knapp, state agriculture agent who
talked about rural extension work. An endowment fund was
established for the Federation and Stephen Foster's "Suwan-
nee River" was recommended as the state song. In the
president's report, May noted that since the last conven-
tion she had delivered forty-eight speeches, handled 5,364
pieces of mail, and traveled over 10,000 miles on club
The proposed 1917 legislation resolution which the
women adopted contained some twenty-five items. It called
for an annual state appropriation of $5,000 for the park,
lands for the Seminole Indians, creation of the position
of state forester and formation of special forest fire tax
districts, legislative endorsement of state amendments on
prohibition and equal suffrage, an act allowing women to
serve on school boards, a special appropriation to the home
economics department at the Florida State College for Women
in Tallahassee, equal division of the state's Smith-Lever
Funds, health examination for teachers, free textbooks for
all school children, appropriations for the boys' and girls'
industrial schools and women members on their boards of
managers, strengthening of child labor laws, a minimum
wage and hour bill for female employees, a state tubercu-
losis sanatorium, regulation of medical advertisements, a
bill outlawing public executions, one prohibiting signs and
billboards on public highways, and one setting aside Alli-
gator Bay rookery as a bird reservation. Many of these
demands supported measures already advocated by the General
Federation or were pending before Congress. Florida women
and the Federation had come a long way from that first year
in 1895 when one modest proposal of less than forty words
had been submitted to the legislature. Now, even though
the women could still not vote or hold office, they were a
constituency to be reckoned with, and the legislature was
aware of their political influence.
The Jennings spent Christmas, 1916, at their new
home in Miami. Within a few months the country would be
drawn into the great European war, which was to change
life for everyone and add greatly to May's already over-
full schedule. Characteristically, she would take on war
work and give herself even more responsibilities. But for
now she enjoyed her family and friends and worked on plans
for the legislature in March. The Jennings would spend
more and more time in Miami. Their cousins, William and
Mary Bryan had a home, "Villa Serena," next to their own
Brickell Avenue house; the two couples often entertained
together. Both Bryans were outspoken supporters of pro-
hibition and equal suffrage and stumped the state on
behalf of these issues. Mrs. Bryan was chairman of the
Florida Equal Suffrage Association's legislation committee
and a member of the Federation. The Bryan's sometime held
open houses and teas at their villa to raise money for
their cause. At one such event on behalf of women's suf-
frage, "a plate was discretely left by the door into which
the thoughtful made contributions . . . Sixty-six dollars
was raised and when the amount was announced, Governor
Jennings promptly announced he would double the amount.
The year following, 1917, began with the inaugura-
tion of Sidney J. Catts as governor and this signalled a
move to the political right in Florida. While progressives
remained active and did not completely relinquish their
hold on state government, conservatives were gaining the
initiative. Catts played both to the progressives and con-
servatives. Progressive reforms, which had been underway
for some time, retained their momentum, but many were in-
stituted only after strong resistance from conservative
legislators. Catts' racial, moral, and religious views
cast a pall over the state and created divisions which tended
to polarize the people. Governor Jennings had supported
James V. Knott, Catts' opponent, and both he and May were
alarmed when Catts was elected. May felt uneasy about the
outcome of the 1917 legislative session after Catts assumed
office, but she quickly struck up a friendship with the
new governor, and tried to maintain an open mind about his
administration. In turn, Catts was impressed with her
when they met and wrote, "We all like you very much indeed
and I am also charmed with your son whom I met." 27
Just as supporters of equal suffrage were to be
found in large numbers in the Federation, there were also
prohibitionists. Many women were members of both the Fed-
eration and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Pro-
hibition sentiment mounted in Florida, in part as a result
of Catts' tirades against "blind tigers" and sinners. May
favored prohibition but she never belonged to the W.C.T.U.
At the 1914 Federation convention clubwomen went on record
favoring prohibition. Two years later, a stronger prohi-
bition plank was endorsed when women who favored the subject
sang a W.C.T.U. rally song; those who did not favor prohi-
bition objected. The song, however, was very popular at
Dryi Dry! Dry.'
Hear us tell it.
Everybody yell it.
1917 is the day.
You help, i help.
That's the way.
We will do it.
See us try.
Line up, Florida.
Dry.' Dry J Dry .'2 8
The state prohibitionists' organization was the only-
organized group that from the beginning of the women's
struggle supported them in their call for equal suffrage.
Before the 1917 legislative session, May made
several trips. She organized the Duval County Federation
of Women's Clubs in February and then she traveled to
Macon, Georgia, to address the Conference of Industry and
Education of Southern Women. In New Orleans she attended
a General Federation council meeting, and there delivered
an address on the subject of cooperation, which she saw as
a necessity if Americans were to do their part for the war
effort, which began against Germany in April. May then
went to Tallahassee to attend to the Federation's legis-
lative program. She spent four weeks in the Capital.
She worked hard for the Federation's program, but
the lawmakers of the 1917 session seemed more intransigent
and opposed to the women than ever. The issues of prohi-
bition and equal suffrage were major matters for debate.
Despite strong pressure from the old-girl network and
telegrams and letters from the Federation's rank and file,
the legislators refused to fund the park, create a state
forester position, or enact a law allowing women to serve
on school boards. They did, however, set aside nearly
100,000 acres of Monroe County for the Seminoles, only five
percent of which was arrable, create a State School Book
Commission, permit the building of county-option tuberculosis
hospitals, and create a livestock sanitary board. They
also passed a resolution endorsing national prohibition.
May, who stayed at the Leon Hotel, spent much time
talking to legislators and appearing before committees.
On weekends she traveled to Jacksonville to attend to her
voluminous correspondence. She wrote, "You cannot realize
what an exacting task master legislative work is ... It
is genuine hard work . . . I am worn completely out, have
been before two committees on appropriation and before the
Forestry committee. I am simply snowed under with work."
The fight for equal suffrage was the most heated and
prolonged battle of the session. May worked tirelessly
along with Mary Bryan, Ivy Stranahan, and Annie Broward,
all of whom were officers of the Florida Equal Suffrage
Association. Mrs. Bryan addressed a joint session of the
legislature on behalf of suffrage. May, Ivy Stranahan,
Florence Cay, Mary Jewett, and Lena Shackleford, along with
scores more of enthusiastic suffrage supporters, filled the
gallery to overflowing. Mrs. Bryan was introduced by Cary
Hardee, speaker of the House and no friend of suffrage.
She spoke for over one hour, and at the end she received a
standing ovation. It is doubtful, however, if she had been
able to change the minds of many of the lawmakers, despite
the fact that suffrage had won the support of several of the
legislature's most respected members, including Ion Farris
and Doyle Carlton, other prominent Floridians, and many of
the state's largest newspapers.
"The suffragists brought two bills to Tallahassee
with them. One was an equal suffrage primary bill which if
adopted would permit women to vote in all primary elections
and hold certain offices. The second was a resolution pro-
viding for a constitutional amendment granting equal suffrage
to be submitted to the voters for ratification. Governor
Jennings wrote both measures. ... In the House, W. H.
Marshall of Broward introduced the two measures. . . .
Companion bills were introduced in the Senate by W. L.
Hughlett of Cocoa."
The legislature balked at passing the primary suf-
frage bill, but the state constitutional amendment resolu-
tion was reported out of committee. On April 20, debate
on the bill began in the Senate. It was long and at times
heated. Senators Hughlett, W. A. McWilliams of St. Augus-
tine, James E. Alexander of DeLand , Carlton of Tampa,
Farris of Jacksonville, A. S. Wells of Tallahassee, John L.
Moore of DeFuniak Springs, and H. L. Oliver of Appalachicola
supported the resolution. John B. Johnson, president of
the Senate, led the opposition. Opponents argued that if
women had the right to vote, blacks would also want to vote
in the Democratic primaries. Others feared that equal suf-
frage would destroy "home and American motherhood." Adopting
both prohibition and equal suffrage in one year was just
too much for some legislators. The bill was defeated by a
vote of eighteen to eight. Three days later, however, the
resolution was brought up for reconsideration at a time
when some of the measure's opponents were absent. The
resolution passed by a vote of twenty-three to seven.
Supporters were jubilant. Women who had kept an around-
the-clock vigil and who were seated in the gallery cheered
wildly when the results were announced. The battle then
shifted to the House of Representatives.
House debate was likewise vigorous. The very vocal
minority was led by Hardee. After two days of debate, the
measure was defeated by a margin of five votes. The fol-
lowing day the resolution was reconsidered but it again
lost. The primary suffrage bill failed even to clear
committee, and May asked to have it withdrawn. A bill
favoring presidential suffrage was not even introduced.
Interestingly, while these battles were going on, the leg-
islature was passing a municipal suffrage bill which gave
women the right to vote in local elections. Governor Catts
signed it into law on May 7, 1917.
May was disappointed but gratified that at least the
women, against great odds, had come within five votes of
securing approval of a state constitutional amendment which
would have granted them the franchise. For her there was
victory even in defeat. She saw the effort as an event
which provided Florida women with a political education and
which showed them what they had to fight against. However,
many suffragists, especially those in South Florida, were
not satisfied with the actions of the lawmakers or with
May Jennings' leadership. Several clubs threatened to
withdraw from the Federation. They blamed May for what
they believed was poor judgment and of buckling under to
the men by allowing the primary suffrage bill to be with-
drawn. May was also attacked by the Miami Metropolis .
Always the pragmatist, May explained that she had faced
reality when she had withdrawn the bill; she had realized
that defeat of the bill was inevitable and she had decided
to cut her losses. She felt it was better to leave the
legislators thinking well of the women and the Federation
than to force a long drawn out, no win, confrontation.
She wrote a friend, "I am rather disgusted that all
of my efforts put forth in behalf of suffrage should have
been so misinterpreted. ... I have worked very hard for
the bills but felt it would be better to have all than only
halfway measures. ... It would give the men a loop hole to
say they had given us something. It would make it harder
for us to secure full suffrage in time to come. ... It is
much better to push and work for a better campaign for the
next two years, and stir up interest in the constitutional
amendment. I am frank to say there will have to be a great
deal of work done among the women of Florida, and be sure
there will be no representatives returned to the legislature
who will not support the suffrage amendment. This means a
great deal of work, if we thoroughly organize the
state, and begin at once, there is no reason why we should
not succeed . "
Considering the atmosphere surrounding the 1917
legislative session — the country at war, a controversial
new governor, and two major emotional issues — the results
of the session were probably as good as could have been
expected, but May was nevertheless disappointed. She was
especially distressed at the failure to get the park appro-
priation. She wrote, "I am brokenhearted, after all our
work and the promises made us . . . the House refused to
let the park bill come up. I know now more than ever that
women must have the vote is they are to accomplish anything.
The legislature gave away thousands to themselves but the
only thing asked by the women they never intended from the
first to grant. ... I am worn out with our so called
wonderful lawmakers and I am beginning to think that women
are fools to work as they do for the good of the world . . ,
the men make promises one minute and vote the other way the
next." In spite of the failure, May planned to resubmit
her park bill to the 1919 legislature. She informed one
club officer that the park committee was also thinking of
submitting a bill to create still another state park on
the Suwannee River, "which would of course include a great
deal of the river bank . "
At the conclusion of the legislative session, May
began immediately to make plans for another state tour.
Now, besides her responsibilities for the Federation, she
had accepted new duties connected with the war. She was
serving on the General Federation's war emergency committee.
Herbert Hoover, head of the United States Food Administra-
tion, had appointed her to Florida's State Food Commission,
an agency which was charged with publicizing the need to
produce and conserve food. Governor Catts had appointed
her to the Florida chapter of the Council for National
Defense, to the state commission on sanitation of army and
navy camps, and to the state's Library War Council, which
was supposed to raise a portion of a national goal of
$1,000,000. May was also in charge of organizing Red Cross
volunteers from among the state's women's clubs, and she
was appointed chairman of the state's Liberty Loan Drive.
Florida women engaged in all types of war work.
Thousands signed pledge cards to conserve food, volunteered
for Red Cross work, saved books and magazines for the armed
forces camps , staffed canteens and hospitality houses for
the soldiers, and sewed sweaters, muffs, and caps for the
troops. They collected hundreds of pounds of string and
tin foil, a practice which caused Governor Jennings much
consternation and inconvenience as the stuff was stored in
the Jennings ' home until it could be bundled and shipped to
Washington, D. C. Some Florida women objected to any German
music being played at club functions. At the 1917 conven-
tion, many protested over the music committee's plans to
play selections from Beethoven, Mendelsohn, and Wagner.
President Wilson himself was wired and asked for an opinion,
he replied that "he did not regard the use of good music as
unpatriotic." One clubwoman informed May that she "went
out and pulled up all of the German iris plants in her
garden after war had been declared. "
Clubwomen were also worried about the questions of
the "moral purity" and unsanitary atmosphere that surrounded
the new army camps in Florida. The rise in liquor consump-
tion and in prostitution alarmed many citizens. Camp
Johnston near Jacksonville received most of the attention.
May, an avowed prohibitionist and member of the state's
sanitation commission, led the drive to make the area
around the camp "dry." This task was eventually accomplished
when the federal government declared that all camps in the
nation were to be surrounded by zones which would preserve
their "moral purity." May's war work soon overwhelmed her
Federation duties and she wrote a colleague, "This war busi-
ness has just about put me in bed." By autumn she had four
stenographers and six volunteers helping her with her paper
Of course, her regular Federation responsibilities
continued; she just worked longer and harder than ever be-
fore. Planning for the new girls' industrial school in Marion
County consumed a lot of her time. The Federation had sub-
mitted plans to the governor and to the state board of
control regarding the establishment of a family-style
cottage system of housing like the one adopted for the
boys' school. The officials ignored this concept, even
though the legislature had recommended the cottage plan,
and decided that a barracks-style campus would be erected.
May wrote to Florence Cay: "We are in a stew about the
Girl's School because the board is planning a large build-
ing with a flat roof for the school instead of the cottage
plan which has been adopted. The Ocala women are up in
arms. We have to see what we can do about it right away.
I shall write the Governor at once." After an exchange
of telegrams and letters with Catts and the board members,
May was informed that plans would go forward for construc-
tion of the barrack-style dormitory. Angry and frustrated,
May wrote Elizabeth Hocker , an Ocala resident, "I never saw
anything like this board. They seem to think they know it
all, and that the fact that they are officially elected
gives them unusual ability and knowledge without ever
having to study a question." So it was that the boys'
got family cottages; and the girls ' barracks .
During the summer of 1917, May outfitted the park's
new lodge. She purchased linens, kitchen appliances, and
furniture for the living quarters, and twelve large hickory
rockers, at a cost of $2.25 each, for the screenporch. The
Homestead clubwomen made braided rugs for the lodge's
floors, and other clubs sent bedspreads and curtains. The
Federation had small handbills distributed throughout the
state extolling the virtues of the park and the facility
was now receiving visitors on a regular basis. May super-
vised the landscaping around the lodge, and instructed
Mosier to plant roses and brilliant red bouganvilleas near
the front door. Both he and May worried about grassfires
which continually threatened the park and about a disease
that was attacking South Florida's royal palms. This fungus
eventually destroyed many of the park's palms. During
September, May held a Federation board of directors meeting
at the park. While there the women decorated the lodge and
had their picture taken.
Other Federation committees were supervised but they
did not require as much attention. Lena Hawkins, who was
on the board of governnors of the Florida Good Roads As-
sociation as well as a member of the Federation's good
roads committee, continued to keep the busy president amused.
She wrote May, "I got a deep breath into the port ear of
the chairman of our county commissioners the other night
and told him that unless he got that portion of the road
between here [Brooksville] and Aripeka put in shape, I
would set the whole Federation on him . . . now you know he
will, or I'll camp on his trail until he does." The good
roads committee remained one of the Federation's most
Suffrage continued to be a subject of concern for
many of the Federation's officers. May continued to stay
in touch with Mary Jewett, and together they developed
plans to make the suffrage issues a subject of formal study
within every club of the Federation. May also corresponded
with Ivy Stranahan, the new president of the Florida Equal
Suffrage Association, and helped her make arrangements for
that organization's convention to be held the same week in
Tampa as the upcoming Federation convention.
The Florida Federation of Women's Clubs convened
its twenty-third annual meeting in November of 1917. Con-
vention business was primarily devoted to mobilizing the
women for the war effort, electing new officers, and pro-
moting suffrage, good roads, and public health. Rose Lewis
(Mrs. Edgar Lewis), of Fort Pierce was elected president to
succeed May, whose name was submitted to the General Federa-
tion as a Florida director. May was also appointed chair-
man of the Federation's conservation committee, a position
she accepted because of her attachment to the park.
In her final address as president of the Federation,
May thanked the members for their help during her three-
year administration, and she listed all that had been
achieved during that period. She was particularly proud of
the creation of Royal Palm Park, and the construction of
its facilities. She was also pleased with the endorsement
of equal suffrage at two Federation conventions and its near
acceptance by the 1917 legislature, passage of a prohibi-
tion resolution, establishment of the Federation's endow-
ment fund, creation of the girls' industrial school near
Ocala, the anti-tuberculosis work which was begun in
every Florida community, adoption of Red Cross work within
the Federation, promotion of rural extension work, and the
growth in Federation membership, now numbering more than
10,000 women. She reported that in three years she had
handled 15,132 pieces of mail, had made innumerable speeches,
and had traveled 26,543 miles on club business. May, one
of the Federation's most popular presidents ever, was given
the Federation's large wooden gavel as a permanent token
of esteem and appreciation. But May Jennings' service to
the Federation and the state were hardly finished. New
challenges lay ahead.
Notes to Chapter VII
Kate V. Jackson to May Jennings,- December 10, 1914.
MMJ Papers, Box 4.
Florence (Cay) to May Jennings, December 4, 1914.
MMJ Papers, Box 4.
Rose A. Lewis to May Jennings, December 8, 1914.
MMJ Papers, Box 4.
"Tallahassee Weekly True Democrat , December 11, 1914.
May Jennings to Mrs. William Hocker, January 8, 1915
MMJ Papers, Box 5.
"Florida Federation of Women's Clubs,'' 1915. MMJ
Papers , Box 5 .
Lena Hawkins to May Jennings, n.d. MMJ Papers,
May Jennings to Mary Coogler, February 9, 1915.
MMJ Papers, Box 5.
May Jennings to Elizabeth Kocker , April 5, 1915.
MMJ Papers, Eox 5.
Lucy Lock to May Jennings, April 9, 1915. MMJ
Papers, Box 5.
"J. A. Hendley, History of Pasco County,- Florida
, p. 15.
May Jennings to Mrs. John McGriff, April 30, 19 lo.
MMJ Papers, Box 5.
Lena Shackleford to May Jennings [May, 1915] .
MMJ Papers, Box 5.
Telegrams. Bryan Jennings to May Jennings, June
2, 1915; William S. Jennings to May Jennings, June 3, 1915.
MMJ Papers. Box 6.
Kenneth R. Johnson, "The Woman Suffrage Movement in
Florida" (Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University,
1966) , passim. Johnson lists twenty-eight leagues in
Florida between June, 1912, and November, 1930, p. 55.
Edith Stoner to May Jennings, July 11, 1915.
MMJ Papers , Box 6 .
L.B.E. [Mrs. R.A. Ellis] to May Jennings, August
28, 1915. MMJ Papers, Box 6.
18 May Jennings to Mrs. T.V. Moore, September 8, 1915.
MMJ Papers, Box 6.
Speech, "Woman's Opportunity," FFWC Yearbook,
1915-16 , pp. 26-31.
20 May Jennings to Charles Moiser, February 23, 1916.
MMJ Papers, Box 8.
May Jennings to Mary Munroe , n.d. MMJ Papers,
Box 9 .
May Jennings to Charles Moiser, April 3, 1916.
MMJ Papers, Box 8.
Miami Herald , November 24, 1916.
26 Womans Journal , XVIII, April, 1917. Quoted in
Johnson, "Woman's Suffrage, " p. 87.
2 'Sidney J. Catts to May Jennings, May 8, 1917.
MMJ Papers, Box 10.
2 "WCTU rally song." MMJ Papers, Box 10.
29 May Jennings to Mrs. E.C. Loveland, May 3, 1917.
MMJ Papers, Box 10.
30 Johnson, "Woman's Suffrage," p. 210
31 Ibid . , p. 212.
32 Ibid . , p. 214.
May Jennings to Mrs. T.V. Moore, May 15, 1917.
MMJ Papers , Box 10 .
3 'May Jennings to Marie Randall, May 30, 1917; May
Jennings to Florence Cay, May 29, 1917. MMJ Papers, Box 10
May Jennings to Mrs. John D. Sherman, May 21, 1917
MMJ Papers, Box 10.
36 Woodrow Wilson to FFWC, November 21, 1917. MMJ
Papers, Box 11.
37 Carrie McCollum to May Jennings, November 27, 1917
MMJ Papers, Box 11.
38 May Jennings to Mrs. M.L. Stanley, July 20, 1917.
MMJ Papers, Box 10.
39 May Jennings to Florence Cay, May 26, 1917. MMJ
Papers, Box 10.
40 May Jennings to Mrs. William Kocker, June 5, 1917.
MMJ Papers, Box 10.
41 Lena Hawkins to May Jennings, June 4, 1917. MMJ
Papers, Box 10.
42 "Report of President of FFWC," November, 1917.
MMJ Papers, Box 11
A DEDICATED LIFE
The years following her tenure as president of the
Federation were May Jennings' busiest and most successful.
During the war she served on numerous state mobilization
boards and committees, including the State Food Commission,
National Defense Council, Library War Council, War Savings
Council, Belgian Relief Committee, and the Armenian-Syrian
Relief Committee. Her most diligent efforts were expended
on behalf of Liberty Loan work. Prior to the end of her
presidential term she had been appointed state chairman of
Florida's Woman's Liberty Loan Committee and had the re-
sponsibility of organizing the women and setting up ma-
chinery for the five loan drives.
Americans viewed the war idealistically , with fervor
and patriotic zeal. The conflict was perceived as the
battle to "make the world safe for democracy." Scores of
mobilization committees urged citizens to buy war bonds,
grow victory gardens, join the Red Cross, volunteer their
services to hospitals and hospitality houses, save food,
cloth, paper, and other commodities, and to join the armed
forces. The public was exhorted to "Give Until it Hurts,"
and to "Beat Back the Hun." Housewives were urged to "Can
vegetables, fruit, and the Kaiser, too," and to make "Every
Garden a Munitions Plant
Anti-German feelings ran high and included the boy-
cotting of German music and food. Dachunds were renamed
"liberty pups,'- frankfurters became "liberty sausages," and
sauerkraut, "liberty cabbage." The populace endured "wheat-
less," "meatless," "heatless," and "lightless days.
Families with members serving in the armed forces hung a
red and white service flag in a window of their home, with
a blue star on it for each person in uniform. If service-
men died in the war, a gold star was sewn over the blue.
One thousand and forty-six Floridians perished in the con-
flict. The Jennings family did their part in the war effort
and doubled the production of vegetables, beef, and poultry
on their Kiddleburg farm. Bryan Jennings, a recent graduate
of law school, joined the navy and became an intelligence
officer. He was stationed first at Washington, D. C. , and
then at Key West. During the conflict he married his child-
hood friend, Dorothy Isabel Brown.
Jacksonville, as well as Pensacola, Tampa, Miami,
and Key West, was especially affected by the war. It be-
came a ship building center of some importance, and the
development of Camp Johnston, near Orange Park, brought
thousands of soldiers and their families into the area.
Housing shortages, economic inflation, and increases in
crime troubled the community. Jacksonville became known
as the "booze oasis" of north Florida. May and other
prominent prohibitionists worked hard to quarantine the
military facility and to place it in a dry zone. After a
bitter struggle May wrote a friend, "We had an awful fight
here for the wet and dry election, but won out." The "moral
sanitation" surrounding Camp Johnston was attacked, too,
and became an important issue among clubwomen, who under
May's leadership, sent President Wilson and other government
officials a resolution regarding the moral climate near the
camp. During the effort to establish a zone of moral
purity, May obtained for distribution pamphlets from the
American Social Hygiene Association. One such pamphlet
was entitled "Prostitution in its Relation to the Army on
the Mexican Border. "
Hundreds of Jacksonville women participated in the
war effort. Many volunteered to sell bonds and stamps.
Others joined the Red Cross and served on its first aid,
nursing, relief, and hospitality committees. Leaders of
the local Red Cross branch included Louise Meigs, Annie
Broward, Minerva Jennings, Ninah Cummer, Lina Barnett, and
May, who was responsible for the acquisition and distribu-
tion of supplies, food, and clothing to area families ad-
versly affected by the war. During the conflict Red Cross
volunteers in Duval County made, packaged, and shipped
over one million surgical items. In addition to her Red
Cross duties, May also served on the Jacksonville Commis-
sion on Training Camp Activities which coordinated invita-
tions to convelescing soldiers, inviting them to partake of
meals and social entertainment in private homes.
May Jennings was an excellent person to head the
state's Woman's Liberty Loan Committee for she knew how to
organize Florida women. She wrote at that time, "I prob-
ably know more women in the state than any other woman..
She and her staff sent out letters to clubwomen throughout
Florida enlisting their support in the program. Non-club-
women were solicited as well, but clubwomen proved the
most ready to help and furnished the bulk of the workers.
The first need was for chairmen in each of the state's
fifty-four counties. In turn these chairmen had to secure
assistants and scores of general volunteers. Hundreds of
letters and printed pamphlets were mailed before enough
chairmen could be secured to begin the work. No city or
hamlet was ignored. One volunteer, Etta Silverf riend, was
even recruited from the Koreshan Unity community in Lee
County. Most women agreed to help, but few were willing to
assume supervisory tasks or take on the responsibilities of
a county chairmanship. The old-girl network came to the
rescue, however, and many of the Federation's state and
local officers assumed county chairmanships.
Occasionally May would have difficulty organizing a
county and her usual patience would run out. Then she would
angrily write to those local women who had refused to par-
ticipate in the loan work. To one recalcitrant group she
wrote, "I must confess that it is quite a surprise to me
that none of you Fernandina women seem to realize the great
importance of financing the war . . . When women are giving
their sons to the trenches, it does not seem possible to me
that anyone should feel they have a right to refuse a request
from their government as long as they have strength to hold
out. Will you kindly say to the women whom you have consulted
about this work that I more often than not work until two
o'clock at night. . . . The soldiers have in a way sacrificed
their lives uselessly, while some women have stood idly by,
unwilling to assist." Many chairwomen wrote May of their
difficulties in enlisting enough volunteers. To these ladies
May would send cheery but humbling letters. To one she wrote,
"you must not get discouraged. ... If you had 54 counties
to furnish with chairmen, you'd have something to complain of,
so be thankful you have only one county to look after."
May worked tirelessly throughout the war. The loan
campaigns were administered out of Washington through
regional headquarters. During the course of the conflict
she made frequent trips to the nation's capital and to
Atlanta to attend high level loan meetings. With her other
club duties, in addition to her war committee work, she
never seemed to have time to relax. During this period,
she wrote a friend, "This war business has just about put
• U A - 11
me in bed .
May also had the responsibility of arranging tours
and schedules of the national personalities who came into
Florida speaking on behalf of bond sales and food conserva-
tion. During the war she accompanied several speakers on
tours, including Jane Addams, of Chicago, who was a
Jennings house guest. At another time she accompanied Mrs.
Antoinette Funk, national vice-president of the liberty
loan committee, on a swing down the Florida east coast.
They visited over twenty towns. At Daytona they spoke to
some 800 people, and in Miami they addressed a crowd esti-
mated at over 3,000 in number. Everywhere they exhorted
their listeners, most of whom were women, to buy bonds and
to volunteer as sales persons. On another drive May accom-
panied Sargeant-Major Edward Lowery, a decorated English
soldier, on a tour of the state. At other times she alone
was the featured speaker at community rallies.
Selling bonds was not without its hazards. The
women, who wore identifying arm bands and buttons, canvassed
every community in the state. It was tiring work, a nation-
wide influenza epidemic nearly cancelled the fourth loan
drive, and May often had to travel to many unfamiliar out-
of-the-way places. Soliciting in some parts of Florida
offered its own unique perils. One county chairman wrote
May, "I have just returned from Crystal River and the in-
sects nearly ate me up. A whole regiment of German mosqui-
toes attacked me. Casualty list: 5 seriously wounded.
The enemy were driven back with heavy losses, but I lost
some mighty good American blood . "
Liberty Loan and food conservation work put May in
contact with many black women throughout the state, and
encouraged cooperation between clubwomen of both races.
She had previously corresponded with Mary McLeod Bethune,
president of the Florida Colored Women's Federation, re-
garding public health matters. During the war she wrote
her, "I am exceedingly interested in the war work among the
negro women of Florida, and I have had a great deal of
pleasure in cooperating with Eartha M. M. White, president
of the City Federation of Jacksonville. She is an exceed-
ingly bright and energetic women, and seems never to be
weary in well doing. The colored people of Jacksonville
owe her a great deal more than they realize. . . . The pro-
duction and conservation of food and the elimination of waste
is being pushed thoroughly and successfully among the
colored women. " Unfortunately, racism still pervaded the
South and after repeated attempts by national leaders to
bring black women into the liberty loan program the idea
was dropped. Cooperation between the women of the two races
continued elsewhere in the nation, and May continued to
correspond and work with Mrs. Bethune and Miss White and
to help them organize war work among blacks. She later
publically acknowledged that the black women of Florida had
done much to promote the conservation of food and the buying
of bonds and stamps.
Each lib3rty loan drive was accompanied by public
rallies, parades, bonfires, band concerts, military demon-
strations, and other publicity gimmicks, which the loan
people referred to as "stunts." These activities were
designed to arouse the people's patriotic spirit. During
the fifth and last loan drive, April 1919, May and other
city leaders arranged to have the Carlstrom Flying Circus
perform over Jacksonville. One contemporary remembered
that the aerial team "dived, looped, rolled, and roared to
simulate aerial combat as crowds took to their rooftops to
get a better view, and watch open mouthed with awe." In
addition to the air circus, an army tank on tour was en-
gaged to demolish an abandoned building located downtown.
These two events brought one of the largest Florida crowds
ever to assemble during the war. At the conclusion of the
conflict May turned in her final loan report to the Wash-
ington authorities. She could be proud of the record
Florida women had achieved. To their credit they had sold
over $17,000,000 in savings bonds, certificates, and stamps
This was in addition to the amount which had been sold by
During the war May's interest in other activities
continued unabated. On January 24, 1917, she organized
the Duval County Federation of Women's Clubs, an amalga-
mation of twenty-four separate organizations which over
the years was to lend its united support to a number of
important social and civic issues. She served as an
officer of this organization for many years. From 1917
to 1919 she was director of the Florida Anti-Tuberculosis
Association, and made numerous speeches throughout the
state. The association sought not only to reduce the spread
of the disease by improving public sanitation, but urged
the establishment of a state sanatorium. In June 1917,
the Jennings family attended one ceremony in Middleburg
which marked the opening of the "Bryan Jennings" bridge
over Black Creek, replacing the ferry which had operated
there for many years. May and Governor Jennings, who were
Middleburg 's most prominent citizens, supported their son
in his efforts to get the bridge and its opening was an
important event in the history of the isolated little
During December 1917, May was called upon to help
female telephone operators in Jacksonville who had gone on
strike. She wrote Mrs. Raymond Robbins of the National
Woman's Trade Union League in Chicago, and urged her to
come to Jacksonville, to guide the women in their demands.
She also wrote J. C. Privett, state labor inspector, and
asked him for a list of industries in Florida which employed
women. With statistics from Privett she organized a
campaign to publicize the women's plight and to get a more
liberal hours and wages bill passed by the Florida legis-
lature. Unfortunately she was not successful in her legis-
lative effort, but she did bring the operators' working
conditions to the attention of the appropriate Jacksonville
officials. The telephone strike proved shortlived, but it
served to ease conditions under which the women worked.
Real relief for working women would not come until federal
laws were passed later by congress.
May's work on behalf of women's suffrage continued
unabated. During 1918 and 1919 she and other suffragists
kept pressure on Florida's congressional delegations and
especially the state's two Senators, Park Trammell and
Duncan Fletcher, to vote for the Anthony Amendment, the
suffrage bill which was pending in Congress. Both senators
adamately refused to change their antagonistic views about
women's rights despite the fact that May and her colleagues
launched a campaign to swamp them with, what the women
called, "hot stuff" letters. After Fletcher coolly re-
plied to one of May's "hot stuff" letters, in which she
had enclosed a list of all the Florida newspapers which were
supporting equal suffrage, she wrote Dr. Mary Jewett, an
ardent suffragist, "the stubborness of these men makes me
sick. I do not care if either is defeated. I am going to
support the man who supports suffrage." Dr. Jewett re-
plied, "It will be a great day when we no longer have to
have suffrage societies and political equality committees
and when we are recognized as 'real folks'."
When Dr. Anna Shaw, the nationally known suffragist,
visited Florida on a speaking tour, May introduced her to
a Jacksonville audience. May later received from Dr. Shaw
a card with a picture of Susan B. Anthony. It also
contained the Anthony quote which May repeated whenever
she gave a speech: "To desire liberty for one's self is
a natural instinct . . . but to be willing to accord
liberty to another is the result of education, of self
discipline, and the practice of the golden rule."
During the Florida primary in June 1918, the suffragists
worked openly for candidates who had supported suffrage in
the past or who promised to do so in the future. May wrote
of one of the candidates, "he opposed everything women asked
for during the last legislature and I am anxious to see him
left at home this time." But not only was this candidate,
George Wilder, reelected, but he served as speaker of the
As the controversy over the Anthony Amendment became
more active both May and Governor Jennings stepped up their
efforts on its behalf. During the summer of 1918 they wrote
an open letter which was reprinted by the Florida Equal
Suffrage Association. Copies were sent to the state's
major newspapers, many of whom gave it prominent play in
their pages. In November, May addressed both the FESA and
the FFWC conventions on the importance of each woman doing
her part to further the cause of suffrage. Florida women
were split between those who favored federal suffrage only
and those who favored both state and national suffrage.
Unity was essential, and it proved to be the missing quality
which kept Florida suffragists from achieving more success.
In December 1918, May issued a "white" paper written to
refute the argument espoused by Trammell and Fletcher
which claimed that a vote for equal suffrage was an abdi-
cation of the principle of state rights. May denounced
this view and argued that the state rights argument was a
"red herring," just an excuse to oppose suffrage for women.
She asked the Senators, since President Wilson and the
national Democratic party had endorsed equal suffrage,
did this mean that they were no longer Democrats? How
could they call the United States democratic if one-half
of the "nation was still without a voice?"
January 1919, May, Dr. Jewett, Ivy Stranahan, and
other suffragists met in Orlando to discuss the upcoming
legislative session. At the meeting May delivered a speech,
"The Two Roads to Victory," in which she again argued that
women needed both the federal equal suffrage amendment and
a state primary bill. When the Florida legislature convened
a few months later, she and the other women were ready to
submit their primary bill. During the session they lob-
bied tirelessly, with May working simultaneously for suf-
frage as well as for bills effecting conservation, park
matters, and compulsory education. The lawmakers paid
little attention to the desires of the suffragists. The
primary measure failed even to reach the floor of either
chamber. Disheartened and discouraged the women vowed to
continue to work for passage of the federal amendment.
Their disappointment, however, soon changed for during that
summer Congress approved the long desired nineteenth
amendment, and it was quickly ratified and made law.
Neither Florida senator voted for the amendment. The
Florida legislature did not endorse the historic amend-
ment until 1966.
With the passage of the nineteenth amendment the
women's movement underwent a fundamental change. Numerous
new organizations whose aims were to represent women's
views emerged in the new political arena. The Florida
Federation of Women's Clubs, long the standard bearer,
was no longer the only organization to speak for the state's
women. Indeed, the Federation underwent a gradual retrench-
ment, and by 1930 it no longer stood as the progressive
voice of the women's movement. The Florida League of Women
Voters took its place. The League was organized in Palm
Beach County in August 1920. As a non-partisan organiza-
tion, its aim was the political education of women and the
exercise of pressure to achieve progressive goals. The
August 1920, birth of the League coincided with the date set
for the first voter driver aimed at registering American
women. May took the lead in Duval County, made speeches to
publicize the registration drive, and worked hard organizing
women to canvass neighborhoods. While, only white women
were invited to partake of the new democracy, nevertheless,
7,309 Negro women, in addition to 8,702 white females,
registered in the county. May's friend, Helen Hunt West,
a member of the radical National Woman's Party, which May
eshewed, was the first Duval County woman to register to
That year May was appointed associate chairman of
the National Democratic Committee for Florida. Because of
her longtime party connections she was also asked to or-
ganize a local Democratic Women's Club. This she did, and
after an unsteady start, it eventually was incorporated.
This small but powerful group of women was recognized by
all local leaders as an organization to be reckoned with.
May served as the group's president for over nineteen
years. It was readily acknowledged by those who held power
and those who aspired to it that the endorsement of May
Jennings was a blessing one could ill afford to ignore.
May never held any political office herself, but on
several occasions was offered a postmistress position which
she declined. During the late 1920s many Floridians urged
her to run for governor, an act which would certainly have
marked her as the leading woman in the state and one far
ahead of her time, despite the fact that Florida was soon
to elect female legislators. Ruth Bryan Owen, daughter of
William Jennings Bryan, and May's relative by marriage was
one such female politician. At that time May wrote a
friend, "I am still having pressure brought to bear to run
for Governor. It is quite flattering and complimentary
but I can keep so busy without this... I think I will just
pursue the even tenor of my way.
In 1921 the League of Women Voters began publishing
The Florida Voter , its own inhouse organ. The following
year the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs established
its own publication, The Bulletin , later known as the
Florida Clubwoman . The League organized its own committees
on child welfare, education, the legal status of women,
legislation, living costs, social hygiene, women in indus-
try, political information, and international cooperation.
But, the League was different from the Federation, for it
was neither as large or as pervasive as the Federation.
For many years the League had chapters only in Florida's
largest cities, and it never owned any clubhouses. In
addition, the women of the League were interested almost
exclusively in political matters. Local, social and phi-
lanthropic projects received limited attention, and not
until many years later did the League concern itself with
those kinds of matters.
The League also included more northern women who
were relatively new to Florida, and more from minority
groups. From its inception many Jewish women were members
of the League. Some of the Old Federation members --May ,
Ivy Stranahan, May Jewett, and Lucy Blackman — joined the
League but not as many as had been hoped. Some saw the
League as a competitor of the Federation and opposed its
aggressive stance. Just as their organization had been
disapprovingly viewed by conservatives in earlier years,
so they now viewed the new League as being radical. The
League lacked the air of gentility and tradition that had
made the Federation so popular with southern women. May,
however, did not care that the League did not meet certain
social or philanthropic standards, she saw it as a viable
organization with a useful future, and she became a charter
member. Indeed her political experience was quickly recog-
nized by the officers of the organization, and from its
inception until 1926 she served as its chairman of legis-
lation. She also conducted the League's citizenship school
which it held during its annual convention.
As chairman of the League's legislation committee,
May organized the Florida Legislative Council. It was a
creature of her own imagination, an idea she believed ,
whose time had come. With the proliferation of organiza-
tions, old and new, all striving to satisfy their own
legislative aims, May saw that much duplication of effort
could be avoided if these groups could work together. She
wrote, "The plan is for each organization to submit its
legislative program to the council which will decide on
the measures to be presented and who and how many bills
to be pushed during one session. . . . The elimination of
divided interests and wasted effort, the concentration of
the entire force of the woman power of the state upon any
H 3 2
measures will practically insure its enactment as a law.
Thus the Legislative Council, with her as president from
1921 to 1934, became a clearing house for more than ten
state organizations. At its peak the Council spoke for
more than 25,000 Floridians.
Represented by the Council were such disparate
groups as the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, Florida
League of Women Voters, Federation of Business and Profes-
sional Women's Clubs, Florida Mother's Clubs (PTAs) ,
Florida Education Association, Florida Forestry Associa-
tion, state Women's Christian Temperance Union, and the
Florida Audubon Society. Eventually, the Council was to
break apart because of the strains of the Depression era
and because of the desire of many of these organizations
to control their own legislative calendars. But, for more
than a decade the Council, with May at its helm, lobbied
in Tallahassee for a common legislative program. This
program always tried to include something for everyone.
The 1925 program called for stricter controls over the
state board of education, an act requiring the reading of
the Bible in public schools, women as jurors, repression
of prostitution, establishment of an industrial school for
delinquent Negro girls, licensing of carnivals and travel-
ing shows, a board of forestry, a state game and fresh
water fish commission, and for local option stock laws.
The 1927 legislative shopping list included twenty-three
In addition to these issues, the League of Women
Voters and the Legislative Council worked to promote state
participation in the national Sheppard-Towner maternity-
infancy program. They also urged a survey of conditions
of Florida working women, the removal of common law dis-
abilities on married women, and the elimination of the
state's poll tax. The Legislative Council served the state
well, and May Jennings became a more than ever familiar
figure in the halls of government in Tallahassee.
After women received the vote May continued to
promote women's rights. While she was not a member of
the National Woman's Party, she nevertheless favored that
organization's Lucretia Mott bill (equal rights amendment)
which was rejected by the increasingly conservative Florida
Federation of Women's Clubs. May continued to urge Florida
women to become involved in local and state political
matters. In April 1922, she wrote an article, "Women's
Work in Florida," for Florida Magazine , in which she out-
lined the achievements of fourteen of the state's women's
organizations. She described the new Legislative Council
and the hopes for the future; she urged all Florida women
to join in the political process.
In 1925 she was appointed chairman of the women's
editorial advisory committee of Tropical America magazine.
The magazine lasted only two years, but during that period
she managed to have printed articles pertaining to Royal
Palm Park, home demonstration work, conservation of the
state's natural resources, and Florida's new park system.
She wrote the editor, "What I bring to the magazine in
prestige, position, standing in the state, is a matter
of long years attainment, and I am not unmindful of the
fact that, being as conversant with state affairs as I
am . . . has its great value. At least it helps me to the
accomplishment of things that otherwise would be impos-
sible. . . . The articles, I dare say, have not possibly,
as much literary merit as many others could bring, but I do
feel that my information as to state affairs is possibly as
far reaching as that of anyone else."
May continued to work for prohibition. The 1917
legislature passed a statewide prohibition bill which was
ratified by the voters the following year. The eighteenth
amendment was enacted in 1919, but, it soon became apparent
that prohibition was going to have a precarious future.
Florida, near the "wet" Bahamas, quickly became one of the
major smuggling routes for rumrunners and others who sought
to import illicit liquor. Citizens in Florida's coastal
cities witnessed a series of battles between smugglers and
state and federal enforcement officials. Late in 1919 the
National Anti-Saloon League organized groups in each state
to counteract the growing breakdown in respect for lav; and
order. The Florida Educational and Temperance Campaign was
established, the objectives of which were to educate the
public about prohibition, support police officials, and
raise money to oppose the liquor interests, who were work-
ing to get the new amendment repealed.
The organization was supported by many women who
were also members of the Federation and the Florida Equal
Suffrage Association. May Jennings was selected chairman
of the woman's division, and was expected to call upon her
vast talents and her network of friendships to find county
chairwomen as she had done so often before for other or-
ganizations. However, it was not taken into account that
the mood in the state and nation had changed. The war,
the bond campaigns, and the struggles over suffrage and
prohibition had left the American public exhausted and
somewhat cynical. Americans were no longer interested in
great moral causes. For two decades reformism had been the
catch-word of society, now Americans were interested in
other things. A conservative, pro-business mood permeated
the country. Increased mobility, and greater economic
freedom had created a public which no longer supported
progressivism. Many Americans resented prohibition, which
they viewed as a prudish law which sought to regulate their
May found it difficult to secure the people needed
for the temperance education work. Previously cooperative
clubwomen were not willing to help. One of May's steno-
graphers wrote during the search for workers, "It seems to
me like this Education Temperance work is about the worst
we have ever tackled. I never saw the way the women are
afraid to accept chairmanships .... We will never get the
state organized at the rate we are going." In addition,
officials at the organization's state and regional head-
quarters bickered among themselves over jurisdiction and
expense monies. The decision to eliminate the women's
division proved to be one of May Jennings' few failures.
She would return later to prohibition and law enforcement
For nearly a year Governor Jennings had complained
of chest pains and fatigue. As the weeks wore on his con-
dition continued to deteriorate. During the autumn of
1919 he had an acute attack that at the time was diagnosed
as severe indigestion, but apparently he had suffered a
heart attack. With her husband gravely ill and bedridden,
May was forced to hire around-the-clock nurses to care for
him. By Christmas the prognosis was serious, and May,
accompanied by friends, Dr. and Mrs. M. 0. Terry, the former
surgeon general of the state of New York, took the Governor
to the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach where it was thought
that the warm weather would facilitate his recovery. He
did improve, and in February 1920, was transferred from
Palm Beach to the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine.
February 27, it was decided that he was well enough to be
taken back to the Jennings home in Jacksonville. As he was
being prepared for the trip, he suffered another massive
attack and died within minutes. He was fifty-six.
Governor Jennings' funeral was held in the Main
Street Baptist Church in Springfield with Governor Catts,
former Governor Gilchrist, and scores of other state of-
ficials in attendance. All offices in Tallahassee were
closed, and flags across the state were flown at half-
mast. Jennings was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, not far
from his and May's home.
May had never felt such grief. Even the death of
her mother years before had not affected her so deeply.
She had spent twenty-nine years working along side of her
husband, and had shared his many dreams and aspirations
for Florida and its people. Now she would have to go on
alone. For several months after her husband's death she
remained at her home in Jacksonville, closing out his
affairs and using the time for quiet reflection. She was
forty-seven years old, energetic, and too young to retire
from public life. She knew that she would continue her
work; there were too many things yet to be done. She
wrote, "I expect to dedicate the rest of my life to the
development of our beloved state to which my dear husband
devoted so much of his time and thought, and I hope in a
measure to be instrumental in bringing to realization some
of the great things he started and dreamed for Florida.
Soon after Governor Jennings' death, May as presi-
dent of the Springfield Improvement Association, was asked
to lead a fight which concerned something important to her.
It seems that in 1919 the city commission had quietly
passed an ordinance which called for the paving of Main
Street and the destruction of its palm-lined esplanade.
When local citizens became aware of this action the battle
began. Those favoring the paving included the commission
and businessmen (realtors and local car dealers) who or-
ganized themselves as the Main Street Improvement Associa-
tion. May and other area residents, including Ion L.
Farris, led the fight to retain the parkway. They managed
to get the city council to oppose the commission, but this
stand proved more symbolic than practical for real power
lay with the commissioners. Mayor John W. Martin opposed
the paving plan but, he too, was unable to do anything to
save the esplanade.
May, Farris, and other longtime residents did every-
thing they could to get the ordinance rescinded or delayed,
but to no avail. The Springfield Improvement Association
even held a non-binding referendum on the issue. During
the most critical period of the struggle May urged that
the city if need be remove the sidewalks but leave the
scenic esplanade intact. She argued that Main Street was
still a residential street and that, "back of all the agi-
tation was a real estate scheme perpetrated by those who
had moved to palatial homes in Riverside. .. the people of
Springfield not being willing to have Main Street's beauty
destroyed in the interest of a few gentlemen who want to
make money in real estate."
Unfortunately, despite a battle which was carried
into the courts, Springfield lost; the picturesque, palm-
lined esplanade was dug up as were many of the roadway's
large oak trees. Main Street became one of the city's
busiest commercial thoroughfares, and next to the Jennings
house there was soon a grocery store and across the street
a saloon. The loss of the esplanade in front of her home
proved to be one of May Jennings' sadest and bitterest
defeats. Its loss spurred her to fight that much harder,
however, for the preservation of other beauty spots in and
around the city and state.
May's work on behalf of the national organization,
the General Federation of Women's Clubs, continued, and
in 1920 she was elected vice-president. Her campaign bro-
chure for the position stated that she was a woman "born to
an inheritance of big thinking and right acting who had
fearlessly chosen what she believed right." It also stated
that she was "a pioneer in every progressive movement in
[Florida]." it was a true statement. Since 1918 she had
served as Florida Director to the General; now she was to
assume a higher and more powerful office. After her elec-
tion as vice-president she was placed in charge of the
General's national home economics demonstration extension
work which operated in cooperation with the United States
Department of Agriculture. She was a familiar figure to
officials of that agency because of her work with the
Smith-Lever and corn club programs years before. She was
a good choice to coordinate the vast program, and for two
years she devoted time and energy to the project. By late
1922 she could report that thirty-nine states and 2,500
counties in the nation had established rural extension
During her four years as vice-president she served
the General in many ways, including membership on the
committee which located, purchased, and raised over
$150,000 to renovate a headquarters building in Washington,
D. C. During those years she attended many important
meetings in the Capital. On two occasions she and her
colleagues were entertained at the White House. She also
served as chairman of the General's medical loan scholar-
ship fund, raising money to support young women who were
interested in becoming doctors. In addition she served on
a committee which urged Congress to create a federal de-
partment of education, with a woman as its head who would
hold cabinet rank.
In 1923 May became vice-chairman of the General's
Woman's National Committee for Lav/ Enforcement, and was
placed in charge of the nine southeastern states. This
appointment allowed May to continue her support for national
prohibition. The position was the result of her earlier
work for the defunct Florida Educational and Temperance
Campaign and of her presidency of a new organization, the
Duval County Law Enforcement Committee, which was formed
in late 1920. 43
Because of all of her many services to the General
her name was put in nomination for president at its 1924
biennial convention. She did not attain the post but was
made an honorary life-time vice-president of the organiza-
tion. During her years working for the General she managed
to travel extensively throughout the country and spent
much time in Washington. Her energy during these years
was remarkable for she continued to maintain her regular
schedule of city, county, and state activities.
Some of these responsibilities included helping to
organize the Springfield Garden Club and a movement to
clean up Springfield, beautify Hogan ' s Creek, and to land-
scape the Long Branch Creek near Evergreen Cemetery. In
March 1924, May became a charter member of the Jacksonville
chapter of the National Aeronautics Association which
sought to further the growth of aviation in northeast
Florida. The group was instrumental in helping Florida
Airways to inaugurate mail flights in 1926. In 1927 May
attended a banquet honoring Charles Lindbergh. Despite
her interest in aviation May Jennings never flew in an
In 1925 May worked to secure passage of the bill
which created the Florida State Library at Tallahassee.
As a past member of the War Library Council and a former
president of the Federation she was familiar with the
library needs of the state. When the new library was es-
tablished the Federation, at her urging, donated its
ancient but large traveling library which had criss-
crossed the state for so many years. These books formed
the nucleus of the state's collection. May also helped
to secure for the new state library the private collection
of books which belonged to William Jennings Bryan.
Finally, during the early 1920s, May served as
chairman of the endowment fund for the new tubercular and
crippled children's hospital which was built in Jackson-
ville at Panama Park on Trout Creek. She also remained
active on the board of Daniel Orphanage and she helped her
old friend Marcus Fagg raise money for the Children's Home
Society. May's was truly a dedicated life, and yet she
found much that remained to be done.
Notes to Chapter VIII
Ernest Ludlow Bogart, War Costs and Their Finan -
cing (New York, 1921) , passim. The European war began
November , 1914. The United States entered the conflict
April, 1917. An armistice was signed by all parties
November, 1918. The five Liberty Loan drives occurred
May-June, 1917; October, 1917; April-May, 1918; September-
October, 1918; May, 1919.
Steve Jantzen, Hooray for Peace: Hurrah for War.
The United States During World War I (New York, 1971) ,
T. Frederick Davis, A History of Jacksonville,
Florida, and Vicinity, 1513-1924 (St. Augustine, 19 25) ,
May Jennings to Kate Jackson, May 25, 1918. MMJ
Papers, Box 13.
5 Pamphlet, "Prostitution in its Relation to the Army
on the Mexican Border," July, 1917. MMJ Papers, Box 10.
Edith Gray, The History of the Jacksonville Chapter
of the American Red Cross. World War I Period: March 20,
1914 (Jacksonville, n.d.), p. 30.
May Jennings to Mrs. George Bass. February 1,
1918. MMJ Papers, Box 12.
Pamphlet, "National Woman's Liberty Loan Committee
Recommendations to County Chairmen." MMJ Papers, Box 12.
'May Jennings to Fannie D. Williams, February 11,
1918. MMJ Papers, Box 12.
May Jennings to Mrs. D.E. Austin, February 1, 1918.
MMJ Papers, Box 12.
May Jennings to Mrs. M.L. Stanley, July 20, 1917.
MMJ Papers, Box 10.
12 Pamphlet, "A Primer of the National Women's Liberty
Loan Committee for the Use of Women Speakers." MMJ Papers,
Sarah E. Sweat to May Jennings, September 21,
1918. MMJ Papers, Box 13.
May Jennings to Mary McLeod Bethune, July 20,
1917. MMJ Papers, Box 10.
John P. Ingle, Jr., Aviation's Earliest Years in
Jacksonville, 1878-1935 (Jacksonville, 1977), p. 14.
The Duval County Federation of Women's Clubs was
disbanded May 14, 1965. See Jacksonville Florida. Times-
Union , May 15, 1965.
J.D. Privett to May Jennings, April 5, 1918. MMJ
Papers, Box 12.
May Jennings to Mary Jewett, April 15, 1918. MMJ
Papers, Box 12.
Mary Jewett to May Jennings, April 11, 1918. MMJ
Papers, Box 12.
Postcard, Anna H. Shaw to May Jennings, October
1918. MMJ Papers, Box 14.
May Jennings to Elizabeth Skinner, May 24, 1918.
MMJ Papers, Box 13.
Speech, "What It Would Mean to the Cause If Each
Suffragist Did Her Part," November, 1918. MMJ Papers,
May Jennings, "State's Rights," December, 1918.
MMJ Papers, Box 13.
Speech, "The Two Roads to Victory," 1919. MMJ
Papers, Box 14.
Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 152.
Pamphlet, "The National League of Women Voters:
What It Is, How It Works" . MMJ Papers, Box 17.
Davis, A History of Jacksonville , p. 277.
James R. McGovern, "Helen Hunt West: Florida's Pioneer
for ERA," Florida Historical Quarterly, LVII (July, 1978), pp. 39-53.
Alma Taylor, Secretary of DCDW, Inc., to author,
December 9, 1976. DCDW, Inc., was established in 1919
and received an incorporating charter, June 29, 19 35.
In 1928 Edna Fuller (Mrs. John Fuller) of Orange
County became Florida's first female state representative.
Lena Hawkins (Mrs. C.E. Hawkins) became mayor of Brooksville
in 1928. Ruth Bryan Owen became Florida's first congress-
woman and served the 4th District (Miami) from 1928 to 1932.
May Jennings to General M.O. Terry, February 16,
May Jennings, "Woman's Work In Florida," Florida
"The Florida Legislative Council Endorses Measures,
19 26. MMJ Papers, Box 18
May Jennings, Wo
Magazine , April, 1922, p. 14
"The Florida Legisla
The Florida Voter , I, April, 19 25, p. 11.
34 Jennings, "Woman's Work In Florida, 1 ' Florida Maga -
zine , April, 1922, pp. 13-18.
The Hollywood Magazine , published by the Florida
Society of America, first appeared in November, 1924. In
1925 it changed its name to Tropical America and in 1926
became South magazine. May Jennings joined the magazine,
December, 19 25.
3o May Jennings to O.E. Behymer, February 6, 19 26.
MMJ Papers, Box 17.
"For an explanation of the symbiotic relationship
which existed between prohibition and women's rights move-
ments see James H. Timberlake, Prohibition and the Progres -
sive Movement, 1900-1920 (Cambridge, 1963).
Mrs.  Woods to May Jennings, January 30, 1920.
MMJ Papers, Box 16.
At the time of Jennings' death he was general
counsel for the Everglades Sugar and Land Company, presi-
dent of the Jennings Artesian Farm Land Company, Dade
Muck Land Company, Furst-Clark Construction Company, Ever-
glades Contractors, Bowers Southern Dredging Company, vice-
president and general counsel for the Florida State
Drainage Land Company, chairman of the ways and means
committee of the Naval Stores Association of Florida,
president of the Leesburg State Bank, Depositors Trust
Company, director of Barnes and Jessup Company, and a pro-
prietor of extensive real estate holdings in Jacksonville,
Brooksville, and Miami.
"Florida Director's Reports to the General Federa-
tion of Women's Clubs," March, 19 20. MMJ Papers, Box 16.
"Arguments in defense of Main Street esplanade."
MMJ Papers,. Box 16.
Pamphlet, Florida Presents a Candidate for First
Vice-President," June, 1920. MMJ Papers, Box 16.
The Duval County Lav/ Enforcement Committee was
established December, 1920. Scores of prominent Jackson-
villians were members including Reverend VI. A. Kobson,
Mrs. J.D. Alderman, Annie Broward, Charles E. Jones,
Marcus Fagg, W.F. Coachman, and Mrs. J. A. Corbet. This
organization promoted the enforcement of prohibition and
other types of moralistic legislation. The organization
disbanded in 1923.
d& . „ .
Campaign song, May Mann Jennings. See Appendix
Ingle, Aviation, p. 16.
Through the years May never lost her abiding inter-
est in conservation. After she relinquished the presi-
dency of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs she was
appointed chairman of the organization's conservation
department, serving from 1917 until 1938. Thus for nine-
teen years she was in charge of the club's Royal Palm Park,
waterways, good roads, Seminole Indians, and bird protec-
tion programs. There were few conservation issues in
Florida during this long period with which she was not in
some way involved. She organized everything from a drive
to get a riparian rights bill passed to protect the
state's rivers and estuaries, to campaigns making the
Mockingbird and the Sabel palm symbols of the state. She
was also instrumental in having February 14 declared "Bird
Day" in Florida.
Royal Palm Park continued to demand much of her
time because it was always in need of money, particularly
during its early years. The site became a popular tourist
spot, and thousands of visitors visited there annually.
It also became a place where scientists could carry on
their biological and scientific studies. Improvements at
the park continued to be made, a well was dug and a water
tower built. A deer pen was constructed on the premises,
and several key deer were kept to entertain the sight-
seers. In 1918 T. L. Mead of Oviedo willed his entire
collection of several thousand hybrid orchids to the park.
Private monetary gifts, secured with the aid of Charles
Simpson and David Fairchild, helped the park to stay sol-
vent. The rental of some of the endowment acreage to
tomato farmers also provided income, but, by late 1918
funds were so low that drastic steps had to be taken. The
warden was dismissed and a part-time caretaker hired. The
old "mile-of-dimes " cardboard strips were reissued to
Federation members, and clubs were urged to hold bake
sales and bazaars to raise money for the park. Some
Federation members irritated by the perennial financial
crisis at the park, began to criticize May and argue that
the park should be gotten rid of.
The 1919 legislature was again asked for an ap-
propriation. Prior to the session's opening May wrote an
article about the park which appeared in Mr. Foster's
Travel Magazine , a national monthly. This article, which
included pictures of the hammock was reprinted, and a copy
was presented to each legislator. Despite intense personal
lobbying by May and her committee, which was supplemented
by a park display the women set up in the Capitol corridors,
the legislature failed to vote funds. May was very dis-
appointed; many of the legislators who were personal friends
had assured her that the appropriation bill would pass.
Frustrated and angry, she wrote Comptroller Ernest Amos
and demanded the $4.00 the state owed the park. It seems
that in the original 1915 bill granting the park lands to
the women the lawmakers had provided a token $1.00 a year
state appropriation. During the intervening years May had
never asked for the small sum, but now angry at the legis-
lators, who she felt had betrayed her, she demanded the
money. It was sent. At that time she wrote a friend,
"the work [conservation in Florida] is up hill and one gets
dreadfully discouraged at times.
May refused to accept defeat and continued to work
for the park and for other conservation projects. In 1920
she wrote the Rockfeller Foundation and tried to secure
funds for the purchase of 10,000 acres adjacent to the park
which she wanted to make a bird sanctuary. She was fearful
that the land would be sold by the state to an industrial
conglomerate interested in land speculation just as it had
with the Alligator Bay rookery land the year before. At
that time May had tried to prevent the sale but she had
failed. She was also unsuccessful in her endeavor to
secure funds to acquire the additional park acreage, but
she did not give up her search for money.
In 1920 and 1921 she distributed copies of the
articles "Natural History of Paradise Key and Nearby
Everglades of Florida" and "Birds of Royal Palm Hammock,"
to prominent individuals and legislators who might aid the
park. In 192 some money was raised when she rented the
Arcade movie theatre in Jacksonville and showed slides
of Royal Palm. She continued to write letters of protest
to state and federal officials about the lack of enforce-
ment of existing bird and wildlife laws. Governor Sidney
J. Catts was particularly recalcitrant and opposed any
type of conservation measures. This did not deter May,
and she continued to campaign for nev/er and more stringent
laws. When Governor Cary Hardee took office in 1921 May
sent him a long letter detailing what conservation mea-
sures she felt the state needed. She also urged him to
endorse a state natural resources department. During these
years she and her cohorts worked closely with the Florida
Wildlife League and the Florida Audubon Society. She
counted as friends many nationally known naturalists and
During the years of World War I, May had become
embroiled in one conservation controversy which made head-
lines for months. Because of the emphasis during that
period on the preservation of food some official in Wash-
ington suggested that sea birds be prevented from eating
fish. Florida shellfish commissioner J. A. Williams then
ruled that since pelicans were thought to eat perhaps a
million dollars of fish a day in Florida the birds should
be controlled by robbing their rookeries of eggs. Older
birds were to be killed outright. The Florida Audubon
Society severely criticized Williams and other state offi-
cials who favored the plan. Naturalists were appalled by
the idea that the state's pelicans should be destroyed.
Feelings on both sides of the issue ran high. Stanley
Hanson, a Fort Myers Indian agent and federal migratory
bird inspector, wrote May, "all this talk about the pelican
being responsible for the disappearance of the food fish
is a lot of rot . " May and her conservation committee cir-
culated petitions opposing the bird slaughter, and the
National Audubon Society began to exert pressure on the
United States Food Administration, which was supporting the
May wrote her friend E. W. Nelson, chief of the
Bureau of Biological Survey, in Washington for help. He
and employees of the bureau visited Florida to study the
situation. They prepared and sent to May an official re-
port, "The Truth About the Pelicans," which defended the
habits of the beleagured birds. May gave this paper to
William F. Blackman, president of the Florida Audubon
Society, and he had it retitled, reprinted, and distributed
throughout the state. At the time May wrote the president
of the Federation, "It seems we are in for a fight to save
our birds." And so they were.
Coastal newspapers such as the St. Petersburg
Independent condoned the destruction of the birds. May's
views on behalf of the birds, however, carried a great deal
of v/eight around the state, for not only was she chairman
of the Federation's conservation committee, but she was
an officer of the Florida Audubon Society and a member of
the State Food Commission, organizations on both sides of
the issue. Her views were so well publicized and she her-
self so well respected by the general public that at a
meeting of the State Food Commission, which was charged with
promoting food conservation, she was able to get a resolu-
tion passed protesting the killing of Florida's pelicans.
Soon the plans to exterminate the birds were dropped.
In 1921 May wrote her friend, E. W. Nelson, in
Washington, to get the new caretaker at Royal Palm Park,
Gordon T. Doe, appointed a deputy game warden. In the
letter she acknowledged for the first time that her hard,
and at times discouraging work was beginning to pay divi-
dends, even if it was still too soom to celebrate a total
victory. She wrote, "About the middle of last month I
visited the Royal Palm Park and on the bridge where we go
over the lilly pond we stopped our car between 5 and 6 in
the evening and saw to the north on a little island be-
longing to our property between two and three thousand
water fowl go to roost. I am beginning to feel that our
bird conservation work is well started. But you can
readily realize how very carefully the warden has to guard
this spot. He virutally has to put the birds to bed every
night to keep the hunters from shooting into them."
1921 proved to be pivotal in the history of the park.
For many years just May and a few staunch supporters had
continued to work for the park; their efforts had aided in
helping the park stay open to the public. The 1921 legis-
lature was again presented an appropriation bill by May,
who feared that the lawmakers would once again reject her
appeal. Whether it was because of her reputation, or
Governor Jennings' death the year before, or the fact that
the park had become popular, or becuase of sheer exaspera-
tion, the legislature approved a $2,500 annual appropria-
tion. May's dream had become a reality; the park's future
was assured. The Federation retained ownership and mana-
gerial responsibilities of the site, but the state took
over the financial burden. An overjoyed May Jennings
wrote letters of thanks to each legislator who had voted
for the appropriation bill.
Through the years she continued to oversee the opera-
tion of the park. Its popularity increased and during the
Florida real estate boom in the 1920s thousands of tourists
treked over its vine-covered, palm shadowed pathways. The
hurricane of 1926 and several grass fires the next year
caused severe damage and forced the legislature to appro-
priate $10,000 for restoration. Before the decade was out
additional acreage was acquired, increasing the park's size
to nearly 12,000 acres. In 1929, acting on behalf of the
Federation, May offered Royal Palm Park to the proposed
National Everglades Park if it should be created. This
was a fortuitous gesture, and in itself helped to promote
the national park.
May continued to work with Ivy Stranahan on behalf
of the Seminole Indians. After the 1917 legislature set
aside 98,000 acres of state land in Monroe County for an
Indian reservation the women began to agitate for this land
to be transferred to the federal government, for it was
learned that Washington would make no improvements on the
reservation as long as it did not hold title to it . A
memorial to this effect was presented to the 1919 legisla-
ture. In it May wrote, "if this land was under Government
control steps would be taken to drain portions of the
tract that could then be made available to the Indians.
The only Government Indian Reservation contains about 23,000
acres in Big Cypress Swamp, Lee County, with only 5% of the
land available. ... We appeal to you to give the Indians
a permanent home and settle this question for all time."
During maneuvers to secure the land transfer May again
clashed with the acerbic Minnie Moore Willson over the phi-
losophical question of whether hunting or farming lands
were more beneficial to the Indians. May favored the ac-
quisition of dry, arable land for the Indians. She wrote
of Mrs. Willson, "I think she is more anxious for acres
than for quality.
It was becoming obvious that the Indians were find-
ing it increasingly difficult to sustain themselves in the
white man's world. "Because of white hunters and the
development of canals, drainage operations, and highways,
the supply of wildlife had been reduced to a point where
deer, bear, and turkey were rarely found. Some food and
virtually all other articles had to be purchased at the
trading posts. Cash income came from the sale of furs, hides,
dolls, baskets, and from occasional farm labor, and part-
time work as hunting guides." The Indians ' s traditional
way of life was being destroyed.
The 1919 legislature was unresponsive to the request
to cede the state lands to the federal government, but the
women refused to give up the cause. For nearly twenty
more years May, Ivy Stranahan, and other friends of the
Seminoles lobbied to improve their conditions of life. In
1931 the Dania (Hollywood) Federal Reservation was estab-
lished, and in 1936 additional lands in Broward County were
secured for the Indians. During these years the women
worked to secure not only lands, but medical care, jobs, and
educational benefits for the Indians.
Other conservation issues which occupied May Jennings
during these years concerned reforestation, forest fire
control, cattle tick eradication, and fencing. Since its
early years the Federation had been interested in forestry
matters. This was because of the clubwomen's concern with
conservation in general and because some prominent women,
especially in south Florida, were married to naturalists
who were interested in forestry matters. Governor Jennings,
in 1901, had called for a state forest conservation and
reforestation program. After the creation of Royal Palm
Park May's and the Federation's interest in these issues
escalated. Bills were submitted to the legislature calling
for the creation of a state forestry board, and the posi-
tion of state forester. When the park was repeatedly
threatened by forest fires, the conservation committee
began an active program to get a forest fire control bill
through the legislature. Eventually a bill was passed,
but it provided only for weak and ineffective county option
control. May led the effort to get a tougher law enacted.
Because of the Jennings' large timber holdings,
Bryan Jennings was also interested in forestry matters
and worked with his mother. In January 1919, May addressed
the Conference of Southern Foresters in Jacksonville on
the need for the creation of a state department of natural
resources which would oversee a forestry board and coordi-
nate other conservation programs. She also outlined the
Federation struggles to get conservation laws enacted. As
a result of this appearance she was appointed to a committee
charged with organizing a state forestry organization, but
it was decided that there was not enough time prior to the
convening of the 1919 legislature to organize formally.
However, those who were interested in forestry matters
decided to lobby for the establishment of a state forestry
board and for stronger fire control measures. Unfortunately,
the 1919 legislature, which passed some progressive measures
failed to respond to the forestry group's requests. Shortly
after the end of the session the Florida Forestry Associa-
tion was formally established. B. F. Williamson of Gaines-
ville was chosen president, Bryan Jennings vice president,
and May was appointed special consultant on legislation.
Williamson later remembered that "Mrs. W. S. Jennings was
a public spirited woman and realized the loss occurring
the way forests were being handled. She at that time. . .
conceived the idea of getting together a group to develop
it into the forest service and she really sparked the flame
that developed into the F.F.A."
The new association dedicated itself to preserving
the forests of Florida, the wildlife, and to the elimina-
tion of wildfires. The by-laws stated that the organiza-
tion intended "to represent the interest of all people, the
sportsmen, and the wood-using, naval stores, agricultural
and horticultural industries." The by-laws purposely in-
cluded these sugments of the population because without
their support the Association would have had a difficult,
if not impossible, task achieving its goals. Chief among
the organization's opponents was the cattle industry.
Cowmen had long believed that the periodic burning
of range grass and undergrowth was useful in retarding
scrub vegetation and rejuvenating the soil, and producing
tenderer, lusher grasses. According to B. F. Williamson,
"The cattle man knew when the cattle were hungry that he
could drop a match and have them lucious green food in a
couple of weeks." Another contemporary stated that,
"The first people who started fire protection and tree
planting had an awful uphill fight because in Florida wide-
spread burning of the woods was an accepted thing. It
was felt that the woods ought to be burned in order to
kill the boll weevil, get rid of snakes, take care of
cattle ticks and almost anything else. The woods were
burned in order to clear the land and to keep the pasture
growth from getting too high. It was an easy thing to do,
and there was no regard for the other fellow's property.
Range burning to produce new vegetation was opposed
by most foresters in the 1920s. Later it was more readily
accepted. For years the cowmen and the foresters clashed
in the halls of government and argued the question of
whether "to burn or not to burn." May, who was appalled
by the indiscriminate burning practices of the cattlemen,
argued this question frequently before various groups
throughout Florida. During her talks she always advocated
the proposed state department of natural resources and a
forestry board. She urged cooperation with the federal
government in establishing national forest reserves in
Florida and in wildfire prevention programs. State coopera-
tion came slowly, but eventually several large preserves
were established, and Florida began participating in some
fire prevention programs. These efforts as May regarded
them, were meager.
In 1921 May and her cohorts pushed a bill through
the legislature which created fire districts in the Ever-
glades. The following year Bryan Jennings declared for
the legislature and ran on a platform calling for the
establishment of a forestry board and a tick eradication
program. Although defeated in the primary, he continued
to work for the Forestry Association. In 1925 the group
secured passage of a bill which supplemented the 1921 wild-
fire measure, but both were county option laws and there-
fore not strong enough to bring the problem under control.
In 1925 the Forestry Association tried again, but without
success, to secure authority to establish a state forestry
board. Conservationists did achieve some victories that
year, however. A bill protecting dogwoods, hollys, and
mountain laurels was passed, and a bill creating a state
park system under the auspices of the trustees of the
Internal Improvement Fund was enacted. It would be several
years, however, before any parks, other than the privately-
owned Royal Palm Park, would be created.
In October, 1925 May published an article, "Con-
servation in Florida," in the Christian Science Monitor.
In it she described the successes—game and fresh water
fish department, park system, protection of the flowering
trees--of conservationists in the state. In addition that
year May helped Lillian Taliaferro Conway, a federal for-
estry expert hired by the Association, to arrange a
speaking tour among Florida's women's organizations, to
publicize the need for forestry laws.
From its inception the Florida Forestry Association
worked to establish local forest fire protective associa-
tions in each of Florida's counties. These associations
were non-governmental groups of land owners who banded
together to protect their areas from wildfires and to fight
such fires should they arise. The Association also lob-
bied in favor of the Clarke-McNary Act, enacted by Congress,
in 1924, which set up a system of national and state co-
operation in fire prevention, reforestation, stream flow
maintenance, and forestry tax laws. The Association in
1925 published a pamphlet entitled "Common Forest Trees of
Florida," and the following year, "Forest Fires in Florida."
Statistics compiled by the Association showed that fires in
Florida were a major problem: "In 1927, 15,646 fires were
recorded, of which 15,437 occurred in unprotected areas. .
. . The total number of acres burned rose to 13,260,820."
In 1927 the Forestry Association returned to the
legislature with a comprehensive bill which called for
establishment of a state forestry board. In later years,
Clinton H. Coulter recalled, "that several of them
[Association Members] camped over at the legislature and
pressed the legislators by personal contact, and got the
bill introduced . . . That early group beat the drums and
did the spade work and lobbied up in Tallahassee to get
over the bill." Mr. Williamson remembered that, "We
realized the cattleman was not interested in our bill and we
thought it dangerous to draw one law, so we drew two laws
to cover forestry protection and another to cover fire
protection. The matter was presented to the legislature.
This required an appropriation so a committee was appointed
to the House. The authorities that appointed this com-
mittee were not favorable to forestry. I was able to go
to Tallahassee and see what could be done and from every
important point to study forestry and see the main man on
the committee on forestry in the Legislature. This man
happened to be an old lawyer and when he got through mis-
representing the situation before the committee, the bill
was killed in the committee. Then the sparks began to fly.
Mrs. W. S. Jennings got busy. George Pratt, President of
the American Forestry Association had been down here and
while he had no financial interests in the state, he did in
forestry. ... He gave us a truck and a moving picture to
go all over the state and show people, so that the bill that
the committee had turned down had to be accepted and was
voted on by 2/3 of the Representatives of the Legislature . ,
. . 20
the Department of Forestry was brought into being."
At the time of the passage of the bill May wrote,
"I handled the Forestry law entirely myself except for
several days work done at different times during the
session by my son, who is the author of the law. We are
, ., „21
very proud of this big step in conservation for Florida.
Because of her leadership and lobbying and publicity work
during the fight, May Jennings was often called the "Mother
of Florida Forestry." She received from the American
Forestry Association a bronze medallion in recognition of
her activities. One friend wrote to her: "Bully for you
in regard to the forestry laws. This is only one of many
things you have done. I wish Florida had a half dozen of
you." 22 May's friend, Governor John W. Martin, appointed
Byran Jennings to the newly created board of forestry. He
served for ten years (1927-1937), during which time the
board established a reforestation program, worked to pre-
vent forest fires and enforce wildfire legislation, orga-
nized the Florida Forest Service, worked with civic groups
to publicize the work of foresters, and eventually helped
establish a system of state parks. The creation of the
Florida Board of Forestry was one of May's most signifi-
In addition to forestry matters, the Federation had
always evinced an interest in the cattle industry and its
problems. The Federation's first legislative resolution,
in 1895, had concerned itself with free-roaming livestock.
Around 19 00 the national and state governments began a
public program to control the Texas cattle fever tick,
which had invaded southeastern ranges. Florida's first
tick eradication control bill, passed in 1899, gave all
authority to the counties. In 1913 the State Board of
Health v/as authorized to lead the eradication program, but
once again real power was left in the hands of county
commissions, many of whom refused to participate in the
program. In 1915 the State Livestock Sanitary Board
assumed the responsibility for the eradication program,
but it too made little headway. As a result of the fail-
ure to eliminate the tick, the problem threatened to be-
come a major political issue. At their 1916 Federation
convention, clubwomen, aware of the impending crisis,
voted to endorse a strong cattle tick eradication program.
The tick affected not only the quality of Florida beef,
but it was also attacking the state's dairy herds and
affecting the amount and quality of the milk produced by
cows. The slogan among these clubwomen became "Protect Our
By 1917 the tick problem had become so severe that
most of the state was under quarantine with cattle pro-
hibited from being shipped out. it was estimated that the
range industry was losing $10,000,000 anually. Not all
cowmen believed that the tick should or could be eliminated.
The Florida Livestock Association, dominated by William F.
Blackman and Mrs. Potter Palmer, of Sarasota, favored a
strong eradication program, while the Florida Cattlemen's
Association, which was controlled by F. A. Hendry, opposed
eradication. In 1918 Blackman, who was also president of
the Florida Cattle Tick Eradication Committee, wrote May
requesting her help in the battle. The November 1918
election was approaching and those in favor of tick control
had managed to get a local-option dipping measure on all of
the counties' ballots. Blackman ' s wife, Lucy, knew that
the Federation was well organized, and he turned to her
fellow clubwomen for help to promote the tick eradication
Cattle tick eradication was viewed by cowmen as a
major economic issue; many felt dipping would drive them
out of business. Jow Ackerman, in his history of the in-
dustry, says, "time involved in the actual dipping forced
part-time cattlemen and farmers with sizable herds to
become fulltime cattlemen or get out of the business alto-
gether. One could no longer turn his head loose on the
open range and forget about them until round-up time. . . .
It was a constant cycle of hunting cattle, driving them
to the vats and dipping them twice a month. And, of course,
the cattle were not the only carriers of the tick . "
As the critical 1918 election day approached, May
hurried to organize the clubwomen and help Blackman 's
cause. Two other issues on the ballot at that time, a
statewide prohibition amendment and a ten mill amendment
designed to promote good roads, were also favored by the
women. On election day clubwomen across the state took
up posts outside the polling places to urge support for
the three measures. Prohibition and the millage measures
won handily, compulsory cattle dipping was adopted by
twenty-eight of Florida's fifty-four counties.
As a result of the election progress was made
against the tick, but it was apparent that without a state-
wide compulsory dipping law Florida would never be free,
once and for all, of the vexatious problem. Proponents of
tick eradication continued to work toward that end. To
many citizens it appeared that a successful tick program
also depended upon the fencing of the ranges, for movement
of infected, as well as dipped, cattle had to be controlled.
Fencing was anathema to cattlemen; open ranges had always
been regarded as a sacred right. As one historian writes,
"Florida was the last cattle state still to have large range
areas unfenced. Fences had been around a long time, but
traditionally they had been used in Florida to keep cattle
out rather than to keep cattle in . . . . Cattleman J. B.
Starkey remembered fondly of riding for nearly three weeks
in the spring of 1914 without seeing a fence. 'There were
no roads then between Alva and Sebring and the area we rode
over was still for pioneers. Like all Florida cowmen, we
rode by the sun, traveling over 325 miles. It was wild
country with plenty of room for a man who wanted to raise
stock' . " 24
When the 1919 legislative session began the forces
favoring tick eradication were prepared. Once again
William Blackman solicited May's help. He wrote an open
letter to each woman ' s club in the state, in which he said,
"I am writing you after consultation with Mrs. W. S.
Jennings, chairman of the conservation committee of the
Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, asking that a com-
mittee be appointed immediately in every club in the state,
whose duty it shall be to urge this matter [statewide com-
pulsory dipping of cattle] upon the attention of the mem-
bers of the Senate and House, in personal interviews if
possible, or by letter. May we not count on you to see
that this is done without delay?
In addition to Blackman 's faction and the clubwomen,
other groups who worked for tick eradication were the
Florida Development Board and an organization with the
confusing name of the Florida No-Fence League, whose
primary aim was to see that all free-range or no-fence laws
were rescinded and replaced by compulsory fence laws. Sev-
eral Federation clubwomen were officers in this League; May
was listed as an advisory member. She also at this time
became a member of the Florida Development Board (forerunner
of the Florida Chamber of Commerce) , an association which
she maintained for the next forty years. However, May op-
posed linking tick eradication with fencing for she felt
that to do so would add to the already abundant confusion
in the public's mind and thereby jeopardize the passage of
a compulsory dipping bill.
Despite continued heavy lobbying by the eradication
proponents, the 1919 and 1921 legislatures refused to pass
a compulsory lav/. This merely set the stage for an all-out
confrontation between the cattlemen and their opponents at
the 1923 session. After weeks of frantic lobbying and
"horsetrading" between the two factions, the 1923 legis-
lature passed Florida's first compulsory statewide dipping
bill. It authorized the state to pay one-half of each cow-
man's dipping expenses, and placed the dipping program under
a reorganized Livestock Sanitary Board. The matter did not
rest there, however, for when dipping actually began in
some places violent skirmishes broke out between officials
and some irate, intractable cattlemen. Several individuals
were killed, and numerous dipping vats around the state
were destroyed. During the early years of the dipping pro-
gram over 70,000 head of cattle were sold to avoid the
dipping process. Eventually, dipping became commonplace,
and the tick was finally eliminated, but not before the
state had expended millions of dollars, suffered several
more quarantine periods, and the Seminole Indians had
threatened to go on the warpath to save their tick-carrying
reservation deer. During this long struggle, May and the
women of the Federation strongly supported the authorities,
although there was some wavering during the Seminole Indian
The no-fence proponents were not so successful.
Despite their success at getting a bill to prevent loose
livestock on the 1922 ballot, they were unable to rescind
a single lav/ allowing open ranges, and Florida had no
statewide compulsory fence law until 1947. Some local
muncipalities did not get around to adopting fence laws
until the 1960s, and this despite the fact that the lack
of fences became a real nuisance and safety hazard as the
state expanded its road system and more and more cars took
to its highways. Throughout her life May Jennings favored
the passage of a compulsory fence law.
In 1922 May became associated with John B. Stetson,
Jr. , and the newly organized Florida State Historical So-
ciety, which had been established October 8, 1921. As a
member of the Florida Historical Pageant Association, pro-
ducers of a 1922 open-air Jacksonville extravaganza, which
depicted the Ribault-Menendez de Avila conflict in drama,
song, and dance, May wrote Stetson for some pictures which
the pageant could publish in its program. Stetson com-
plied with the request, and in a long letter to May out-
lined his plans for his new society which he urged her to
join. She liked the objectives of the society--"to
further interest in the history of the state of Florida, to
form a library devoted to Florida history, to acquire and
preserve historical documents and memorabilia and collec-
tions of any sort referring to Florida, to foster research
in early records, to publish results of such research, to
render accessible scarce historical materials by facsimile
of reprint , "--May became an enthusiastic booster of the
society. She wrote some forty-two letters to prominent
friends, asking them to join also. Many accepted her in-
vitation. Early members included Lincoln Hulley, Senator
D. U. Fletcher, Peter 0. Knight, Kirk Munroe , Dr. Prentice
Carson, Dr. James A. Robertson, Cary Hardee, and A. A.
Murphree. When the society's first publication appeared
in late 1922, May's name and that of many of her friends
appeared on the back flyleaf of the book as sustaining mem-
bers of the organization.
During this period May also became a friend of
Jeanette Thurber Connor (Mrs. Washington E. Connor) who
had been a co-founder of the Florida State Historical
Society, and who was a resident of New York City but spent
her winters in New Smyrna. During one of her Florida
sojourns, Mrs. Connor became interested in the ruins of an
old sugar mill in Volusia County. She incorrectly identi-
fied the ruins as the remains of the Spanish mission, San
Joseph de Jororo , erected 1696, and thus one of Florida's
31 • • H
oldest surviving relics. Mrs. Connor bought the mission
and began to restore it.
Jeanette Connor and May Jennings became close friends
and visited in each other's homes on many occasions. In May
1923, when May, as chairman of the state DAR's old roads and
trails committee, acted as toastmistress at a banquet which
celebrated the dedication of the newly erected DAR Ribault
monument at Mayport, Mrs. Connor was present. The so-called
"mission" of Mrs. Connor's was dedicated at elaborate cere-
monies February 1926, with May, DAR and Historical Society
members, and other prominent Floridians in attendance.
By 1927 May had become a vice-president of the his-
torical society. At the society's annual meeting held at
DeLand, February 1927, she was given the responsibility of
raising the money to save Turtle Mound, an ancient Indian
midden located on the Indian River near Titusville. The
mound, referred to by Mrs. Connor as a "monument to the
ancient and popular institution of the picnic," was nearly
100 yards long and over 80 feet high. ' It was being de-
stroyed by sightseers, roadbuilders seeking shell, and
fishermen, who were depleting the oyster beds which lay at
the foot of the mound. Mrs. Connor had been trying to save
the site since 1921 but without success. In 1924 when she
urged May to help, she was told, "All this about Turtle
Mound is most interesting and as soon as I can get my breath
I will see what can be done." 34 By 1927 May began the cam-
paign to save the mound. For over a year she helped raise
money to buy the site. In 1928 the mound was purchased
and placed under the protective custody of the
historical society. During the 1930s May made frequent
visits to the site, which had been fenced off, to monitor
the situation and she sought help from state authorities
who had agreed to save the mound's oyster beds. Eventually
the mound was deeded to the state, and it became a part of
the Florida park system.
In 1929 an event occurred which caused May Jennings
and others to look back on the preceding decade and her
remarkable career. It had been an active ten years which
had produced failure--the demise of the temperance and law
enforcement organization, and the destruction of the Main
Street parkway — and success — the $17,000,000 raised for
Liberty Loan, the state appropriation for Royal Palm Park,
establishment of a statewide cattle dipping program, pas-
sage of the bill creating the state board of forestry, and
the preservation of Turtle Mound. There had been other
victories too. Scores of conservation laws, a state com-
pulsory education law, a new state library, a state ma-
ternity-infancy program, and Indian protection laws were
all on the statute books. May, who had played a major
role in the passage of each of these measures was now
recognized as "the most widely known" and respected woman
• m :/. 35
On March 17, 1929, Stetson University conferred
upon May Austin Elizabeth Mann Jennings, an honorary
Doctor of Laws degree, the L.L.D. Others honored that
day by the university were Florida Governor Doyle E. Carlton,
and John B. Stetson, Jr. , who was at that time, United
States Minister to Poland. At the ceremonies presenting
the degrees, President Lincoln Hulley, of Stetson, said,
when awarding May her honor, that he was conferring "the
degree for distinguished service to Florida upon one who
had doctored more laws than anyone else in the state."
It was an apt statement. Since 1906 she had been sub-
mitting memorials and bills to the legislature and "doc-
toring" laws. No other person, past or present, could
claim such a long list of accomplishments or to have left
such a personal imprint upon the history of the state. It
was a glorious moment in May's long career.
Motes to Chanter IX
1 [May Jennings], "Royal Palm State Park," Mr .
Foster's Travel Magazine , XI, January, 1919, n.p.
2 May Jennings to E.W. Nelson, September 15, 1919.
MMJ Papers, Box 15.
3 W.E. Safford, "Natural History of Paradise Key
and Nearby Everglades of Florida," Smithsonian Journal
1917, pp. 337-434; Arthur T. Howell, "Birds of Royal Palm
Hammock," The Auk , April, 1921, pp. 5-10.
W. Stanley Hansen to May Jennings, April 22, 1918.
MMJ Papers, Box 12.
5 Pamphlet, Florida Audubon Society, "A Defense of
the Pelican/' 1918. MMJ Papers, Box 12.
6 May Jennings to Rose Lewis, March 9, 1918. MMJ
Papers, Box 12.
7 May Jennings to E.W. Nelson, February 18, 1921.
MMJ Papers, Box 17.
8 Memorial, FFWC, "To the Honorable Members of the
Florida Legislature, Session, 1919." MMJ Papers, Box 13.
9 May Jennings to Ivy Stranahan, February 9, 1918.
MMJ Papers, Box 12.
10 James Covington, "Trail Indians of Florida,"
Florida Historical Quarterly , LVIII, July, 1979, p. 40.
11 Williamson / who was a botanist and graduate of
North Carolina State University, later served as vice-
oresident of the United States Forestry Association. After
long service to the cause of Florida forestry he is remem-
bered as the "father of the Florida tung oil industry." _
For a sketch of Williamson's life see Jacksonville Florida
Times-Union , August 10, 1952.
12 B.F. Williamson, "Sketch and Reminiscenses , "
unpublished MS., P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History,
13 Pamphlet, Florida Forestry Association, "Forest
Fires in Florida," December, 1926, n.p.
Williamson, "Sketch," p. 6.
15 Forest History Society, "Oral Interview with Clinton
H. Coulter, State Forester, Florida Forest Service,"
February 6, 1958, Tallahassee, p. 6.
16 George Dacy, Four Centuries of Florida Ranching
(St. Louis, 1940), p. 149.
Mrs. W.S. Jennings, "Conservation in Florida,"
Christian Science Monitor , October 18, 1925.
18 Stuart Camubell, "Timber Conservation Studies in
Forestry Resources' in Florida," Bureau of Economics and
Business Research , I, May, 1932, p. 57.
19 Forest History Society, "Oral Interview with
Clinton H. Coulter," p. 5.
20 Williamson, "Sketch," p. 6.
21 May Jennings to Paul G. Redington, July 21, 19 27.
MMJ Papers, Box 18.
22 J.A. Robertson to May Jennings, July 30, 1927.
MMJ Papers, Box 18.
23 Joe Ackerman, Jr., Florida Cowman; A History of
Florida Cattle Raising (Madison, Florida, 1976), p. 237.
24 Ibid. , pp. 227-229.
25 William Blackman to "To The Presidents of Women's
Clubs of Florida," March 22, 1919. MMJ Papers, Box 15.
26 For an explanation of why Stetson organized a new
historical society and did not join the Florida Historical
Society see Watt Marchman, "The Florida Historical Society,
1856-1930," Florida Historical Quarterly , XIX, July, 1940.
27 Program. Community Pageant Association, Florida
Historical Pagent, April 20-22, 1922 .
28 Florida State Historical Society, Charter and
By-Laws of the Florida State Historical Society (Deland,
1922) , n. p.
29 Ales Hrdlicka, The Anthropology of Florida (Deland,
1922) , p. flyleaf.
Jean Little, "The Life and Work of Jeanette T.
Connor" (M.A. thesis, Stetson University, 1933).
In 1941 Charles H. Coe in Debunking the So-Called
Spanish Mission Near Nev; Smyrna Beach established conclu-
sively that the "mission" was a sugar mill built about 183
by the New York firm of Cruger and DePeyster. He attri-
buted Miss Connor's error to "an honest mistake" in
32 . •
New Smyrna News , February 20, 1926. In addition
to speeches and prayers by notables the Glee Club of
Stetson University sang patriotic songs.
Little, "Jeanette T. Connor," p. 26.
May Jennings to Jeanette Connor, March 21, 1927.
MMJ Papers, Box 18.
Jacksonville Florida Tines-Union , March 17, 1929.
Blackman, The Women of Florida, II, p. 92.
"LOVER OF BEAUTY"
The last three decades of May Jennings' life were
devoted primarily to conservation and beautif ication work,
although she continued as president of the Legislative
Council and of the Duval County Democratic Women, Inc.
In 1931 the Legislative Council and the League of Women
Voters worked hard for passage of a state hours and sani-
tation bill which they submitted after a survey conducted
by the Federal Bureau of Women found that Florida women
suffered from some of the lowest salaries and poorest
working conditions in the country. The bill did not pass,
but the two organizations continued their efforts to
up-grade the life style of women. The League was particu-
larly active in urging Florida women to play a more active
role in local and state political and civic affairs.
The Duval County Democratic Women, Inc., in its
early days reached a peak membership of 1,500 but declined
to about 4 00. Through the years the organization opposed
the use of "sweat boxes" in state prisons and jails,
sought the purging of Duval County registration lists of
names that were no longer pertinent, called for voting
machines in all elections, and helped promote the passage
of bills which prohibited politicking around polling
places. They also sponsored annual voter registration and
get-out-the-vote drives. In 193 6 the organization support-
ed the passage of the rule change, known as the "5 0/5 0,"
which allowed women greater participation in the affairs
of the Democratic party. As a consequence, the organiza-
tion endorsed and promoted a list of Florida women who were
elegible for election as delegates to the 1936 national
party convention. At the time May expressed her hope "that
every precinct and ward in every county and the state
committee would be filled by proper representatives of
our best women citizens." Later that same year May was
among the delegation of women who escorted Mrs. Eleanor
Roosevelt when she came to Jacksonville on a speaking
After nineteen years as head of the organization May
Jennings noted in an interview with a local newspaper
reporter, "Women vote now and think nothing of it. But
there was a day when they didn't and thought a great deal
about it. . . . We must keep active, we stand for high
class elections, but we don't endorse candidates. Instead,
we endorse measures. We go out for something and fight
for it." She also said that she had "fought for causes
ever since I can remember."
May continued her work for the Florida State His-
torical Society, serving as vice-president, with special
responsibilities for overseeing the Connor "mission" and
Turtle Mound. In 1939 the Society merged with the Florida
Historical Society, and May was no longer as active as she
once had been. By that time Turtle Mound and the "mission 1
had been placed under the auspices of the state park sys-
tem and had been designated historic memorials.
The Florida Federation of Women's Clubs and the
Springfield Improvement Association continued to receive
May's attention. In 1932 the SIA, later known as the
Springfield Woman's Club, built a clubhouse only a few
blocks from the Jennings' home. In 1954 the club cele-
brated its fiftieth anniversary. Through the years the
organization kept a vigilant eye upon Springfield and took
the lead in keeping the public buildings, schools, and
parks in the area clean and in repair. The group also
supported the efforts to beautify Hogan's Creek in Spring-
field Park. As Lucy Blackman remembered: "Some years ago
Mrs. Jennings represented the Springfield Improvement
Association in a campaign to beautify unsightly muddy
Hogan's Creek which divides the main part of dov/ntown
Jacksonville from Springfield. The Creek winds through
the city for a mile and a half before it empties into the
St. Johns River. The Association under Mrs. Jennings'
leadership worked 18 years before they secured a bond
election for a half million dollars for the work and it
took two years more before they could persuade the city
commission to sell the bonds for the work. Mrs. Jennings
finally secured the engineer wanted for the work and it is
now conceded the most outstanding work of its kind in the
whole southeast—with its bulkhead, concrete walks and
ballisters and lighting system. A bronze tablet bears
the Springfield Improvement Association name and date.
Mrs. Jennings was asked to dedicate the beautiful improve-
ment and turn on the lights which she did."
Through the years May continued her interest in
state government. In 1942 when officials threatened to
change public health policy, she submitted the following
resolution to the Federation: "whereas civilian health is
a paramount consideration at the present time . . . and the
state has announced the intention of discontinuing public
health service and units in counties of less than 25,000
population, be it resolved that the FFWC protests the
discontinuance . . . and that copies of this resolution be
forwarded to Governor Holland and the State Board of
Health and the press." The resolution, along with protests
which May solicited from other organizations, prevented
the cancellation of the program.
In 1928 she served as Ruth Bryan Owen's campaign
manager in Owen ' s second bid for election to the House of
Representatives. After the election May helped organize
the Washington office and recommended workers for the Congress-
woman ' s staff. The relationship between these two extraor-
dinary women allowed May to continue the fight to preserve
the Everglades. Mrs. Owen was also an avowed conserva-
tionist, and one of her first actions in Congress was to
sponsor a bill calling for the creation of a national
park in the Everglades. The idea was not new, for many
groups had called for it over the years, but Mrs. Owen's
was prepared to fight for it on the national level.
Senator Duncan U. Fletcher sponsored the bill in the Senate.
As soon as the new bill was announced, May, with
the concurrence of the Federation, offered Royal Palm Park
to the new national park, if and when it should be created.
She also worked with other interested groups to make the
park become a reality. The struggle to save the Ever-
glades and establish a national park proved long and
arduous. May and her fellow conservationists pushed bills
through the 192 9 legislature which laid the groundwork
for the park by providing for the acquisition of state-
owned lands in Dade, Monroe, and Collier counties, and
for the establishment of a state Everglades Park Commission.
The onset of the Depression, however, and the defeat of
Ruth Owen in 1932, sidetracked the issue, and little was
achieved for many years except the holding of hearings and
the production of feasibility studies.
During the years many prominent Floridians and
other Americans spoke out in favor of the proposed park,
including Ebert K. Furlew, United States Secretary of the
Interior; Gilbert Pearson, president of the National
Audubon Society; Roger Toll, superintendent of Yellowstone
Park; H.C. Bumpus, of the National Park Service; and David
Fairchild, Ernest F. Coe, and John K. Small. When famed
landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted toured the glades
on an official inspection trip, he was escorted by Coe,
chairman of a citizens group known as the Tropic
Everglades National Park Association. May worked with
Coe's organization as well as with the Federation, the
state Audubon Society, and all other groups which favored
the project. In 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt
signed the bill which authorized the park, but it would be
many years before the park became a reality.
During the years May continued to oversee operations
at Royal Palm Park. The site registered over 20,000
visitors in 1930, but fires and devastating storms con-
tinued to wreak havoc. With the help of her son, Bryan,
who was president of the state Board of Forestry, she
secured a brigade of the Civilian Conservation Corp for
the park. They made extensive repairs to the lodge and
grounds and accomplished much fire protection work.
Governor David Sholtz, a past president of the
State Chamber of Commerce, appointed May to the state's
Everglades National Park Commission which had been author-
ized in 1929. In 1937 the other commissioners elected
her to lobby the legislature for an $87,000 appropriation
to provide for the commission's work. Fred Cone, the new
governor, who was opposed to the national park, agreed to
sign the appropriation bill if the entire commission would
first resign. He assured May that later he would reinstate
most of the members. Since there was no other choice under
threat of a veto May acceded to Cone's demand. After the
commission resigned Cone proceeded to appoint G.O. Palmer,
a friend from Columbia County, as the new chairman of the
commission. Palmer allowed the commission to remain in
limbo and it was claimed that he allowed the funds to be
expended on relatively unimportant activities. May was
enraged and embarrassed by the governor's behavior. She
had made what she though v/as a fair political arrangement,
and she felt that she had been betrayed. Thereafter she
considered Cone "a double-dealer" and a dishonest man.
But, Cone's tactic effectively stymied the movement to
establish the park.
Despite such discouraging setbacks, May and the
conservationists continued their work. World War II again
eclipsed the movement, but after 1945 Governor Millard
Caldwell revived the defunct commission naming May as a
member. The new commission v/as led by August Burghard
from Fort Lauderdale and John D. Pennekamp of Miami. Among
the twenty-five commissioners were May's old friends Mrs.
T.V. Moore, longtime Federation worker from Miami, and
Harold Colee, a state Chamber of Commerce official. May,
who was now seventy-four, still owned land near Flamingo,
and was designated by the governor to be the commissioner
who represented the area's landowners. May immediately
deeded her land to the state for the park. Pennekamp
remembered May as "a most loyal commission member, who
attended every meeting, took little or no part in the
discussion, but invariably voted approval of all proposals."
When the Everglades National Park became a reality in the
spring of 1947, the old Federation lodge at Royal Palm
Park was utilized as the park's first visitor's center.
Ceremonies dedicating the national park were held
at Everglades, Florida, on December 6, 1947. The ceremony
was attended by many national and state officials and
dignitaries and by mere than 8,000 of the general public.
May was seated on the speaker's platform. Her involvement
in the preservation of the Everglades was longer than any
other person present. Presiding was John Pennekamp, and
there were speeches by Ernest F. Coe, August Burghard,
Senators Claude Pepper and Spessard Holland, Governor
Caldwell, and Secretary of the Interior Julius A. Krug.
President Harry S. Truman, who was wintering at Key West,
flew to Everglades and delivered the keynote address. May
was on the program preceding the speeches; she and Mrs.
L.J. McCaffery, president of the Florida Federation of
Women's Clubs, presented a plaque to Newton Drury,
director of the National Park Service. The presentation
was a symbolic act giving Royal Palm State Park to the
federal government. It culminated the thirty-three year
fight May had waged to preserve the beauty and uniqueness
of Paradise Key and the surrounding Everglades.
The Florida Times-Union that day published a long
editorial summing up May Jennings' life's work:
Everglades National Park was a
permanent monument to the Florida
Federation of Women's Clubs, for
to this energetic organization must
go most of the credit for the long
and much of the time trying struggle
that resulted in setting aside that
portion of the Everglades area that
now becomes Everglades National
Park . . . the part played by the
Florida Federation of Women's Clubs
is recognized by the Government,
as indicated by a letter received
by Mrs. W.S. Jennings . . . from
Newton B. Drury, director of the
National Park Service. 'The dona-
tion by the Federation constitutes
a major step toward the ultimate
goal . . . the State Park area has
been properly guarded from depredation
and perpetually kept for Park
purposes by the Federation as you
pledged it would be in your speech
of dedication on November 23, 1916.'
. . . All who are familiar with the
work of Mrs. Jennings will agree
that a large measure of credit is
due her for determination and per-
sistence which at times bridged wide
gaps of disappointment in the progress
of the program. Today Mrs. Jennings,
who is attending the dedication at
Everglades City, declared that 'it
has been a long hard fight, but the
final outcome very gratifying'; with _
that there will be general agreement.
Since her youth May had been interested in beautifi-
cation work, and from the early 1920s until her death in
1963 she was the most prominent "beautifier" in Florida.
Like many other movements the beautif ication movement
seemed to have a life of its own. Beginning around 1920,
it grew rapidly during that decade, peaked in the 1930s
and 1940s, and gradually declined during the years after
World War II. Several organizations were used to accom-
plish the goals of the beautifiers. The first formal
garden club in Florida was organized in Jacksonville on
March 25, 1922, at the Riverside Avenue home of Ninah
Cummer. Its membership was composed mainly of women from
the Jacksonville Woman's Club. Two years later the ladies
again met in Jacksonville, this time at Grace Trout's
(Mrs. George W. Trout) home and organized the Florida
Federation of Garden Clubs. Three clubs were listed in
the charter — Jacksonville, Halifax, and Winter Park. This
federation grew rapidly, and within a decade there were
many clubs throughout the state, each with its own indivi-
dual cells, called circles. Jacksonville counted eighteen
circles. May belonged to the Springfield circle. The
Rockledge club had a circle composed of black women known
as the Magnolia circle.
The Federation of Garden Clubs became an invaluable
ally of May Jennings. Other groups supporting May's
beautif ication efforts were the Tamiami Trail Association,
Dixie Highway Association, Florida Branch of the National
Association for Restriction of Outdoor Advertising, Florida
Federation of Women's Clubs, and the State Chamber of
Commerce. May's initial introduction into the movement
came when she attended the Third annual state Beautifica-
tion Convention, sponsored by the Chamber, which met in
Tampa, October 1924. At the convention she gave a speech
on the conservation movement in Florida. In 1928 her
interest in beautif ication work began in earnest when she
and a small group met June 19, at the Jacksonville Mason
Hotel. The Association developed close ties with local
garden clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, and other groups
interested in beautif ication.
The State Chamber of Commerce had a long and com-
plex history. There had been many Florida booster organi-
zations over the years, but the immediate antecedent of
the Chamber was the Tick Eradication Board established in
1916. This board was in turn an offshoot of the Southern
Settlement and Development Association, which was composed
of growth-minded cattlemen and lumbermen. In 1921 the
Tick Eradication Board changed its name to the Florida
Development Board, and in 1925 to the Florida State Chamber
of Commerce. Through these formative years it was led by
the same slate of officers, including Jules M. Burguierres
of West Palm Beach, William L. Wilson of Panama City, A. A.
Coult of Fort Myers, and A.G. Cummer of Jacksonville. May
Jennings began working with the organization when it was
still known as the Tick Eradication Board. By the time
it had turned into the Chamber and moved its headquarters
to Jacksonville, she was one of its better known members.
For years the Chamber, the garden clubs, and others
tried to get beautif ication and highway standards upgraded,
but without too much success. As president of the Duval
County Highway Beautif ication Association May attended
the Chamber's Eleventh Annual State Beautif ication Conven-
tion November, 1928, in Kissimmee, and addressed the meet-
ing with a speech entitled "Legislation for Highway Beauti-
f ication." It was apparent to the assembly tnat May was
both determined and prepared. She had come with a bill on
highway beautif ication which she presented to the conven-
tion. It later was published in Beautiful Florida , the
Florida Federation of Garden Club's official journal. She
wrote, "it seems quite time, although years too late in
some cases, but vital to the future of the state, for
higher authorities to take a decided stand and declare a
definite policy in regard to road beautif ication and plan
for rights-of-way suitable to such need. I will recommend
to the Legislative Council that a definite policy be fixed
by law." Her bill, which had been drawn up with the
help of her son, Bryan, had several sections: it mandated
that a beautif ication expert be appointed to the State
Road Department's governing board, every Florida road have
a right-of-way of not less than 100 feet; all road construc-
tion be done from the center of the right-of-way outward,
and that any widening of a roadbed be uniform in nature;
beautif ication and landscaping work reproduce the natural
setting as close as practicable; at least twenty-four feet
of the 100 foot right-of-way be reserved for conservation
and beautif ication; all wire-holding poles be set back
to the outer edges of the right-of-way; and county commis-
sioners be allowed to authorize expenditures for beautifi-
cation of county roads. The measure left little to conjec-
ture or debate; like all of May Jennings' proposed bills,
it was direct and to-the-point.
In 1929 May with the endorsement of Governor Doyle
Carlton, submitted her bill to the state legislature.
Hours of lobbying persuaded her that the bill would be
passed, but it was narrowly defeated. At the time she
wrote to Federation members, "You will recall that the
Highway Beautif ication Bill was taken by me to Tallahassee
with the full endorsement of the FFWC , by the Duval High-
way Beautif ication Association, where it originated, by the
State Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Highway and Florida
Federation of Garden Clubs. I have never handled legis-
lation . . . that had such enthusiastic support, and still
failed to become law. ... I had two conferences with
the Governor and several with Chairman Bentley. ... It
is needless to tell you that I also had to satisfy the
wire, or pole using companies." Utility and outdoor
advertising companies were to remain opponents of May's
for many years. In 1931 she returned to Tallahassee with
the bill. This time even more groups favored its passage,
and without much opposition it became law. Thereafter May
was regarded by many citizens throughout the state as the
leader of Florida's highway beautif ication program.
The Duval County Highway Beautif ication Association
became an organization with political clout and reputation.
It helped Jacksonville and Duval County and was responsi-
ble for many important projects which enhanced the quality
of life. It was responsible for the beautif ication of
eighteen miles of Atlantic Boulevard from Jacksonville to
the beach and sixteen miles of San Jose-San Marco Boulevard,
and for the beautif ication of Pearl Street, Saratoga Point,
and Beach Boulevard. It oversaw the landscaping of city
and county sites including Imeson Airport, the Duval County
courthouse, Matthew Bridge entrances, and the downtown
riverfront. It also was responsible for the acquisition
of DeWees Park at Atlantic Beach and the right-of-way for
the road which leads to St. John's Bluff, the site of
Fort Caroline National Park. Since the mid-1930s May and
others were interested in establishing a national monument
to commemorate the landing and settlement of Ribault. It
was not until the election of Charles Bennett to Congress
that the Fort Caroline National Park became a reality.
The Duval County Highway Beautif ication Association
also turned an unsightly dump along Long Branch Creek and
marsh in north Springfield, into a fifty-acre park, which
when complete was named Jennings Park, in May's honor.
In addition the Association, with the aid of local garden
clubs, oversaw the planting of thousands of flowers, trees,
and shrubs along the county and city roadways. Many of
the projects were completed with FERA, CWA, WPA, and PWA
funds. Through the years the Association received many
accolades. In 1958, May's last year as its president, it
was cited by the General Federation of Women's Clubs and
the Sears-Roebuck Foundation as one of the nation ' s most
successful beautif ication groups.
With the Hogan Creek-Springfield Park project and
the passage of the highway beautif ication bill of 1931
behind her, May's reputation as the state's leading expo-
nent of beautif ication was further enhanced by succeeding
Karl Lehmann, as chairraan of the State Chamber of Commerce's
beautif ication committee. She held this position for over
twenty-five years. May hoped to organize beautif ication
auxiliaries in each community which had a Chamber of
Commerce. Over the years these local committees helped
establish scores of local parks and beautified many build-
ings and roadways. In 193 6 May served on the board of
governors of the Southern Woman's Digest , a magazine
devoted to women's interests which was published in Jackson-
ville. The magazine lasted only one year, but during that
time she published several articles pertinent to conservation
and beautif ication. In one, "God's Own Garden," she
described Royal Palm Park. In another she wrote of
Florida's beaches and advocated the opening to the public
of all state beaches, "Our beaches must be declared to be
state reservations or parks under the protection of the
state. . . . Florida women must realize the value of
Florida's beaches . . . and through local Chambers of
Commerce, civic and social groups strive for a 'closed
season' on Florida's coastline" which is being fenced off
for private use. Shortly after this article appeared
she proposed that the state legislature enact a law call-
ing for the protection and beautif ication of the state's
waterways and beaches, but the measure did not pass.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1941 the
beautification movement was forced to operate at a reduced
pace. Most projects were geared to beautifying the grounds
in and around Florida's many military installations. At
Cecil Field in Jacksonville May personally oversaw the
erection and landscaping of a flagpole plaza on the quadrant
in front of base headquarters. During the conflict she
made her own personal contribution to the war effort by
opening her Springfield home to roomers, to help ease
Jacksonville's critical housing shortage. Many contem-
poraries recall the small, neat sign, "JENNINGS," which
hung from her front porch during those days. In 1943 she
participated in the christening of the 10,500-ton liberty
ship the S.S. W.S. Jennings . Members of the family and
city officials attended the ceremony, at which Thomas B.
Adams gave an address about the career of Governor Jennings.
Then May christened the ship with the words, "May this
liberty ship prove as sea worthy, sturdy, strong, and
dependable as the man was, whose name it is it bear."
After the war a resurgence of the beautif ication
program took place. With Americans more mobile than ever
thousands of tourists began to visit the state. In Florida
several memorial highways were beautified in memory of the
state's war dead, including a section of the Old Spanish
Trail (U.S. 90) from Monticello to Tallahassee, known as
the Blue Star Highway; the highway between Tallahassee and
Thomasville, Georgia; and a section of Highway 3 01 which
began at Clermont and extended south through the Florida
ridge for more than sixty miles. These and scores of other
such projects were coordinated by May's State Chamber of
Commerce beautif ication committee.
During the 1950s Florida joined the national Keep
American Beautiful campaign. For nearly a decade each
September was designated as "Florida Beautif ication Month."
During this month May and her committee coordinated the
beautif ication mobilization effort which took place among
hundreds of Florida garden and women's clubs, chambers of
commerce, and beautif ication associations. Every few
years, under the auspices of May's committee, these
organizations met in convention. One such meeting was
held in 1954. 20 Over 300 Floridians devoted a day to dis-
cussing anti-litter campaigns, law enforcement problems,
and public education issues. That same year May began to
lobby for a bill calling for the creation of a division
of landscaping within the State Road Department, but the
bill was rejected by the legislature.
In 1956 the State Chamber of Commerce dedicated a
new headquarters building in Jacksonville. May supervised
the landscaping which included the installation of sabel
palms and flowering trees on the grounds. '" In 1959 she
was a special guest when the William R. Kenan Floral
Gardens were dedicated on the building's lawn. '" In 1961
May resigned as head of the committee. She was now
eighty-eight years old, but before her resignation she
agreed to oversee one last "Florida Beautif ication Month"
effort. The Florida Times-Union wrote: "If while driving
this month in the family car you see a lovely lady out
planting flowers and shrubs along Florida's highways, it's
a good bet her name will be Mrs. W.S. Jennings. . . . She
is the hardworking chairman of the State Chamber's Beauti-
f ication Committee. Since September is Beautif ication
Month in Florida, Mrs. Jennings and her co-workers are
extremely busy making the Sunshine State pretty for its
winter guests. So when you see Mrs. Jennings out planting
this month, stop and give her a hand to make Florida a more
After May's retirement she received a plaque from
the State Chamber of Commerce inscribed with a resolution
of gratitude for her years of service. She was made an
honorary member of the beautif ication committee and an
honorary life member of the Chamber. By now May had become
used to receiving honors. In 1955 she was named the Spring-
field Woman's Club outstanding citizen, and the following
year the Jacksonville branch of Soroptimist International
named her "Woman of the Year. " ' She had been honored at
a University of Florida Centennial convocation program in
Gainesville in 1953, with a medal for meritorious service
as one of Florida's most outstanding leaders. In 1961
the University named a female residence hall in her honor.
In the building hangs a bronze plaque upon which is
inscribed the words:
May Austin Mann Jennings
A civic leader and wife of William
Sherman Jennings, made her own out-
standing contributions to the life
and growth of this state as a pioneer
in highway beautif ication and park
development. The progress of
Florida forestry owes much to her
dedicated interest. 27
In 1961 May Jennings contracted cancer and retired
from all civic activities. Her son and daughter-in-law
moved into her home to care for her. She died quietly
at her home in Jacksonville on April 24, 1963, the day
before her ninety-first birthday with her son at her
bedside. Her funeral was held at Riverside Park Methodist
Church where friends, including Eartha M.M. White, Chamber
of Commerce officials, and members of the Springfield Woman's
Club paid their respects. She was buried next to her
husband in Evergreen cemetery. The Florida Times-Union ,
in editorial, noted her passing and asked, "Who will step
forward to take her spade?"
The legislature of the state of Florida issued that
day a concurrent resolution expressing deep sympathy and
regret over her passing. In the resolution it was stated,
"The people of the entire state of Florida mourn the loss
of a warmly dedicated woman of rare charm, intelligence
and leadership of the highest order who built an enviable
record of good works, NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA, THE
SENATE CONCURRING: That on behalf of the people of Florida
this legislature does unanimously express its deep and
earnest sense of regret and heartfelt sorrow at her untimely
In 196 3 a few months after her death May Jennings
was awarded a Chair of Business in the State Chamber of
Commerce's Florida Hall of Achievement. On November 12,
19 66, the State Road Department in cooperation with the
Florida Federation of Garden Clubs erected a highway
marker on U.S. Highway 17, near Yulee, where U.S. Highways
1 and 301 enter the state. The marker bears the inscription
"In memory of MAY MANN JENNINGS lover of beauty."
Notes to Chapter X
Southern Woman's Digest , I, April, 1936, p. 2.
Unidentified newspaper clipping, June 21, 1945.
In possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
Blackman, The Women of Florida , II, p. 96.
Mrs. Fred Noble, Florida Federation of Women ' s
Clubs: Jubilee Issue (Jacksonville, 1946) , p. 85.
John D. Pennekamp to author, August 27, 1974.
Miami Herald , December 7, 1947.
7 Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , December 6, 1947.
Yearbook, Jacksonville Garden Club, Founder s
Circle, 1926-27 , n.p.
9 Ella G. Alsop, History of the Florida Federation
of Garden Clubs (Jacksonville, 1943) , n.p.
10 Ibid . In 1958 the Jacksonville Garden Club was the
largest club in the United States with 14 6 circles.
Beautiful Florida , I, November 1924, p. 3.
Duval County Highway Beautif ication Association
Constitution and By-Laws , 1928, n.p.
Beautiful Florida , V, November , 1928, p. 4.
14 Ibid . , V, March, 1929, p. 15.
1::> The Florida Bulletin , IX, August, 1929, p. 4.
In an interview with the author, November 5, 1979,
Representative Bennett recalled that May Jennings was
politically adroit, had a calculating mind and never had
an "axe to grind," but was enjoyable to work with.
Southern Woman's Digest , I, April, 1936, p. 6.
18 Ibid. , p. 4.
Unidentified newspaper clipping dated July 26,
1943. In possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
Florida Business Review and Outlook, XIII, August,
1954, p. 1.
Ibid . , XV, December, 1956, p. 1.
Ibid . , XVIII, February-March, 1959.
Quoted in Florida Business Review and Outlook , XX,
September, 19 61, pT A~.
Ibid . , XXI, February, 1962, p. 1.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , October 24, 1956.
Program, Centennial Convocation, Recipients of
Awards (University of Florida, 1953) .
Dedication plaque, May Mann Jennings Hall, Univer-
sity of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , April 26, 1963.
"House Concurrent Resolution, No. 1196, Expressing
Deep Sympathy and Regret Over the Passing of May Austin
Mann Jennings." In possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge.
"BEYOND THE ALPS LIES ITALY"
There are occasions when silence is more eloquent
than words, when we are surrounded by circumstances in
which, it would seem mockery to attempt to give utterance
to our feelings. Such are the emotions which arise in
our souls, as we stand before you today, to take our final
f arewell .
We have been as wayfarers among you seeking for
treasures in distant lands and in our search for knowledge
we have been separated from those who are near and dear to
us, but, in the gloom which, at times, overspread our days
of search, we were encouraged by the thought that "Beyond
the Alps Lay Fair Italy" our beloved home and that at a
future day, the highest peak would be reached and laden
with treasures we would return to our homes.
Ours has frequently been a weary struggle for, in
the rugged paths, how often has the shadow of discourage-
ment disturbed our efforts! How often has the phantom of
glory tried to lead us astray! How often, too, have we
fallen when we thought ourselves secure, and with bleed-
ing hearts lay amid the rocks; but, cheered on by the
hope of one day arriving at the top of the Alps v/e arose
and continued our work.
Having at last, climbed one by one the rocky cliffs,
and having come in sight of our friends and home, we
rejoice and fondly arranging the treasures sought and
found, we look upon them and with the poet, consider them
"things of beauty, hence, joys forever."
Among the many rare and precious stones which we
have gathered on our weary journey across the Alps, our
labor has been rewarded by the possession of the Garnet,
emblematic of constancy and fidelity; we have also found
the Bloodstone, symbolical of wisdom, courage and firmness;
procured the peerless Diamond of faith and innocence, and
secured the Sapphire of virtue and truth: these are the
most precious among our collection of gems; these com-
plete our casket.
Although we were happy in finding our earnestly
sought treasures, yet, we often grew sad and sighed for
home, but, we were encouraged by the kind and reassuring
words of our esteemed guides, for whom we have formed
strong attachments. Our associates, too, have grown dear
to us — and as we greet each other today perhaps to meet no
more, and as the blithsome notes of happy school day songs
are echoed among the heights, the key notes of memory are
touched, and their sweet but mournful strains force the
tear drops to dim our eyes "ere we summon the courage to
For looking backward from the craggy heights, the
scene is well calculated to move every chord and to open
up the vista of the past; we gaze with pleasure mingled
with pain on the dear old classroom and recreation hall,
where hand-in-hand we worked and played together, and
"the social smile of every welcome face, will in fond
memory ever hold a place."
Nor is the chapel hidden, where low before our Lord
we made known our little wants; to all these we must bid
adieu, but in days to come happy memories will call forth
Oh! friends regretted,
scenes forever dear,
Rememberance hails you
with her warmed tear !
Drooping she bends oer
pensive Fancy's urn,
To trace the hours
which never can return
Yet with the retrospection
loves to dwell,
And soothe the sorrows
of her last farewell!
May A. Mann
June 26,, 1889
ilST OF PRESIDENTS OF FFWC , 1895-19 20
1895-1397, Mrs. P. A. Borden Hamilton, Village
Improvement Association, Green Cove Springs.
1897-1888, Mrs. N.C. Wamboldt, Town Improvement
Association, Fairfield (Jacksonville) .
1899-1901, Mrs. J.C. Beckman, Woman's Town Improve-
ment Association and Cemetery Association, Tarpon Springs.
19 01-1903, Mrs. W.W. Cummer, Woman's Club, Jackson-
1903-1S05, Mrs. Lawrence Haynes, Woman's Club,
1905-1906, Mrs. Richard F. Adams, Woman's Fortnightly
1906-1908, Mrs. Charles H. Raynor , Palmetto Club,
1908-1910, Mrs. Thomas M. Shackleford, Woman's Club,
1910-1912, Mrs. A.E.Frederick, Woman's Club,
1912-1914, Mrs. William A. Eocker, Woman's Club,
1914-1917, Mrs. W.S. Jennings, Woman's Club, Jackson-
1917-1919, Mrs. Edgar A. Lewis, Woman's Club, Fort
1919-1921, Mrs. J.W. McCollum, 20th Century Club,
LIST OF CLUBS IN FFWC
Part I: 1905
Date of Entry Club
1895 Village Improvement Association, Green Cove
Village Improvement Association, Tarpon
Springs (changed to Cycadia Cemetery
Village Improvement Association, Crescent
Village Improvement Association, Orange
Village Improvement Association, Fairfield
1897 Palmetto Club, Daytona
Literary and Debating Club, Melrose
1898 Woman's Club, Jacksonville
Woman's Fortnightly Club, Palatka
Village Improvement Association, Ormond
1901 Housekeepers, Cocoanut Grove
1903 Village Improvement Association, San Mateo
1904 Current Events Club, Live Oak
20th Century Club, Gainesville
New Century Club, High Springs
Village Improvement Association, Lake Como
Woman's Club, Fort Myers
Current Events Club, Tampa
Married Ladies' Afternoon Club, Miami
Part II: 1914
State Section I [Citrus, Sumter, Lake, Hernando, Polk,
Desoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, and Lee Counties]
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
Mother ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Civic Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
2 0th Century Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman's Town Improvement Association
Woman's City Club
Cycadia Cemetery Association
Ladies Village Improvement Association Ozona
Woman ' s Club
State Section II [Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Columbia,
Baker, Nassau, Taylor, Suwannee, Bradford, Lafayette,
Alachua, Levy, and Marion Counties]
Woman ' s Club
Ladies Civic League
20th Century Club
New Century Club
Village Improvement Club
Current Topic Club
Woman 1 s Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
School and Civic Club
State Section III [Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, Holmes,
Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin,
Gadsden, Wakulla, and Leon Counties]
State Section IV [Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Volusia (part),
and Putnam Counties]
Green Cove Springs
Village Improvement Association
Woman ' s Club
Village Improvement Association
Village Improvement Association
Fairfield Improvement Association
Ladies' Civic Improvement Club of
Ladies' Friday Musicale
Springfield Improvement Association
New Springfield Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman's Club Orange Park
Village Improvement Association Ormond
Woman's Club Palatka
Ladies Village Improvement Association San Mateo
Book Club South Jacksonville
Woman ' s Club
Woman's Civic League St. Augustine
St. Cecilia Club
Village Improvement Association Welaka
State Section V [Volusia (part), Seminole, Orange, Brevard,
Osceola, St. Lucia, Palm Beach, Dade, and Monroe
Woman ' s Club
Public Library Association
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
Ladies' Civic Association
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
The Mothercraft Club
Woman ' s Club
Woman ' s Club
Village Improvement Club
Woman's Civic League
Ladies Civic Improvement Club
Woman ' s Club
Progressive Culture Club
West Palm Beach
ANNUAL CONVENTIONS OF THE FFWC, 1896-1919
Green Cove Springs
Green Cove Springs
West Palm Beach
CAMPAIGN SONG FOR MAY MANN JENNINGS
Sung at GFWC biennial convention Los Angeles, June, 1924,
May Mann Jennings
(to the tune of Auld Lang Syne)
Should work and merit be unsung
or unrewarded stay?
Then praise the splendid worthiness
And merits of our May.
May Jennings for our President
Achievement, charm and cheer
To carry on the Winter ' s work
The fruitful Maytime's here.
Her record stands for all to read
Performance through and through
A tale of work and victory
Of lotfy dreams made true.
May Jennings for our President
Achievement, charm and cheer
For every lav; and plan we need
Make her the engineer.
North and South and East and West
One womanhood we stand
And loyally uphold the best
For home and native land.
May Jennings then for President
Achievement, charm and cheer
Her splendid service let us crown
With faith and vision clear.
In her our hopes and dreams are safe
Our seeking meets an end
Her past is ours, our future hers
Hail, Champion and Friend.
May Jennings then for President
Achievement, charm and cheer.
From coast to coast we pledge our faith
To the May time of the Year.
From the Florida Bulletin , III,
No. 8, May, 1924.
Jennings, May Mann Papers. 19 Boxes, P.K. Yonge Library
of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida.
Jennings, William Sherman Papers. 28 Boxes, P.K. Yonge
Library of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida.
Mann, Austin Shuey Papers. 3 Boxes, P.K. Yonge Library
of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida.
Brooksville The Hernando News , July 25, 1391; August
News Register , January 23, 1895.
Sun, June 27, 1952; November 28, 1952.
Christian Science Monitor , October 18, 1925.
Daytona Gazette-News , June 22, 1901.
Deland Volusia County Record , May 17, 1900.
Eustis Lake Region , September 5, 1901.
Gainesville Daily Sun , June 11, 1901.
Jacksonville Dixie , November 8, 1912.
Florida Times-Union , April 9, 15, 29, 1900;
May 6, 27, 1900; June 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 1900;
September 5, 20, 21, 1900; September 13, 1901; Decem-
ber 13, 1912; March 1, 30, 1913; March 17, 1929;
December 6, 1947; February 12, 1950; March 25, 1951;
August 10, 1952; July 10, 1955; October 24, 1956;
May 23, 1964; May 15, 1965.
Metropolis , February 28, 1906; July 23,
1906; November 15, 1906,-March 16, 1907; April 13,
1907; November 22, 23, 27, 1907; February 10, 1908;
April 20, 1908; December 19, 1908; January 6, 27,
Sun , December 2, 1905.
News , August 12, 1892.
Lake City Citizen-Reporter , January 11, 1901.
Miami Herald , August 7, 1913; November 24, 1916; December
New Smyrna News , February 20, 1926.
New York American , December 18, 1902.
Palatka Advertiser , April 30, 1900.
Sanford Herald , undated.
Tallahassee The Daily Capital , December 5, 1901; May 13,
Daily Floridian, April 12, 1891; May 14,
Weekly Floridian, April 8, 1891; May 27,
Weekly True Democrat , December 11, 1914
The Weekly Tallahassean , January 10, 17, 1901; May 23,
1901; October 25, 1901; August 1, 1902; July 17,
1903; August 7, 1903.
Tampa Sunland Tribune , October 20, 1882.
Times , May 10, 1900.
Tribune, May 28, 1900.
Unidentified. July 26, 1943; June 21, 1945.
Beautiful Florida, I, November, 1924.
, V, November, 192 8,
, V, March, 1929.
El Figaro , XVIII, June, 1902.
The Florida Bulletin , IX, August, 1929.
Florida Business Review and Outlook , XIII, August, 1954.
, XV, December, 19 56.
, XVIII, February-March, 1959.
, XX, September, 1961.
, XXI, February, 1962.
Florida Magazine , I, November, 1900.
, IV, March, 1902.
Florida School Exponent , III, December, 1900.
, XVII, June, 1910.
The Florida Voter , I, April, 1925.
Pascua Florida , II, May, 1889.
, II, June, 1891.
, XIV, February, 1903.
Southern Woman's Digest , I, April, 193 6.
Sunnylands, A Florida Monthly Magazine , III, August, 1901.
Woman ' s Journal , XVIII, April, 1917.
Prospectus. Prospectus of St. Joseph's Academy , St.
Minutes. Minutes of the Eigth Annual Convention of the
Florida Sunday School Association , Ocala: Banner
Steam Printing and Publishing House, 1889.
Program. Florida Historical Pageant , Jacksonville: Commu-
nity Pageant Association, 1922.
Program. Souvenir zum Verbandsf est , 1907.
Yearbook. The Woman ' s Club of Jacksonville, 1897-98 ,
Yearbook. Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, 1915-16 ,
Yearbook. Young Women's Christian Association, 1912-13 ,
Jacksonville, 1912. ~ ' '
Charter and By-Laws. Florida State Historical Society ,
Bennett, Congressman Charles. November 5, 197 9, Jackson-
Jennings, Dorothy Brown. July 27, 197 8, Penney Farms,
Sandridge, Dorothy Jennings. June 8, 1978, Orange Park,
Hightower, Elizabeth Bell to author, July 2, 1978.
Pennekamp, John D. to author, August 27, 1974.
Municipal, State, and Federal Records
Florida Legislative Directory, 12th Session , 1883.
Florida Legislative Directory , 1903.
Jacksonville City Directory , Jacksonville: R.L. Polk and
Laws of Florida , 1907, Chapter 5686, No. 91.
Miami City Directory , 1919.
Miami City Map, 1918.
St. Augustine City Directory , St. Augustine: Chapin and
Co. , 1884.
United States Census , 10th, Florida, Hernando County,
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Linda Darlene Moore Vance was born in Fort Worth,
Texas, August 9, 1938. A fifth-generation Texan, she
attended public schools in Corpus Christi. Higher educa-
ton was pursued at The University of Texas at Austin.
She received a bachelor's degree in History from The Uni-
versity of Houston in 1964. From 1964 to 1967 she was a
research assistant at the Humanities Research Center,
University of Texas. She is married to Dr. John M. Vance,
Professor of Mechanical Engineering. They have four
children. Mrs. Vance has authored and presented several
professional papers in her field. She is a member of
Phi Alpha Theta, history honorary society, Florida Histori-
cal Society, and Texas History Society.
I certify that I have read this study and that in
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of^Doctor of Philosophy.
Samuel Proctor, Chairman
Distinguished Service Professor
I certify that I have read this study and that in
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
LyUe N . M ' n
shed Service Professor
I certify that I have read this study and that in
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate,- in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
C . tj6hn Sommerville
Associate Professor of History
I certify that I have read this study and that in
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I certify that I have read this study and that in
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Richard K. Scher
Associate Professor of Political
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was accepted
as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dean, Graduate School
UNIVERSITY OF FLO Rl A
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